Books by Rouch

Jean Rouch published many articles and books throughout his life. These are two of his earlier, illustrated books.

When Jean Rouch made his epic trip down the Niger River with his fellow adventurers Pierre Ponty and Jean Sauvy in 1946, not only did they conduct ethnographic fieldwork and navigate rapids, they also documented their trip in words and in pictures. Le Niger en pirogue is Rouch's account of that trip, illustrated with many photographs.

Less widely known is a children's book by the three friends, Le petit Dan, written in 1948, and illustrated with photos and with sketches by Oumarou Ousmane.

Le Niger En Pirogue
Jean Rouch
Paris: Fernand Nathan, 1954

This little book is an abundantly illustrated account of one of Jean Rouch's first major ethnographic projects. In 1946, Rouch and close friends Jean Sauvy and Pierre Ponty set out to explore the 2,600-mile long Niger River from source to mouth. With the help of a small crew that included Rouch's future partners Damouré Zika and Lam Ibrahim Dia, Rouch, Ponty and Sauvy hoped to complete the unsuccessful voyage Scottish explorer Mungo Park had attempted one hundred and fifty years earlier. The data collected during this nine-month journey provided the raw material for Rouch's oldest surviving film Au Pays des Mages Noirs as well as for numerous articles that appeared in scholarly publications like the Institut Français d'Afrique Noire's Notes Africaines. Rouch's book Le Niger en Pirogue retells the story of the expedition for the general public.

Le Petit Dan: Conte Africain
Jean Rouch, Pierre Ponty, Jean Sauvy
Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1948.

After his father Haouta dies, little Dan is raised by his sister Sara. Because she has promised never to let Dan cry, Sara has a hard time refusing her little brother anything. Consequently, within the space of twenty pages Dan has burned down the family home, destroyed all their food, poked out the eye of the King's son, and nearly killed his sister by yanking on the tail of a giant falcon. Unrepentant, Dan ends up saving the day when he murders a dragon with tongs and hot rocks. These heroic deeds put him back in the king's good graces: by the end of the story he is next in line for the throne, engaged to the king's youngest daughter Hawa and set to live happily ever after. Rouch, Ponty and Sauvy's children's story is as cruel as it is charming. The text is fully illustrated with crisp black and white photos and tipped-in color sketches by Oumarou Ousmane. Like Rouch's films, this children's story is based around dialogue: text, photos and illustrations work together to make the real and the fantastic aspects of Dan's adventures come to life.