The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

28 August 2014

Teaching African Women in Cinema, Art and Culture – Pt 2 - Course structure, outline and themes

La Noire de...(1966) Ousmane Sembene
Teaching African Women in Cinema, Art and Culture – Part 2 is an elaboration of the course structure, outline and themes.

During the spring 2014 semester I taught a course that I created called, African Women in Art and Cinema. In the Part I Blog post, I present the course description. Part II elaborates the course structure, outline and themes. Part III focuses on introductory sources that frame theoretical and critical practices of interpretation and contextualise women artists’ multiple experiences. Part IV investigates the themes “women’s voices” and “women’s stories” and the ways in which they are contextualised and problematized. Part V explores the plurality of women’s experiences based on assigned artists/filmmakers for which students did research and prepared a visual oral presentation. Part VI examines issues around voice and representation drawing from the story of Saartjie Baartman—the woman, and the Venus Hottentot—the name given to her as spectacle—Beti Ellerson, September 2014

The course began with an overview, contextualizing African women in art, cinema and culture and framing the theoretical and critical discourse on visual representations of Africa and African women. Many of the sources were drawn from my own work in forging an African Women in Cinema Studies, especially because of its accessibility and also because I could engage the students directly with my research process, beginning with my book, Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film, Video and Television (Africa World Press, 2000), the film Sisters of the Screen: African Women in the Cinema (2002, distributed by Women Make Movies) and the creation of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema, (which I am founder and director) with its public forum, the African Women in Cinema Blog.

While the above sources focus broadly on the moving image, I was able to easily integrate them into specific and general discussions on visual art and cultural production. What drew me to “African Women in Cinema” as a study and research focus was its incredibly broad range of discourse and practice. Women on, in front, behind the screen—as makers, producers, scriptwriters, actresses, role models, consciousness raisers, practitioners, technicians, organisers, fundraisers, social media community managers, bloggers, agents of change, activists, advocates, audience builders, cultural producers, cultural readers, and above all, storytellers—they are all part of this notion of “African Women in Cinema” as a conceptual framework.

The course was organized around the following themes:

Women artists’/filmmakers' voices
Women's stories, experiences and realities
Critical voices of women actors
Visual representations of African women
Interrogating identities, bodies, sexualities, femininities
Intergenerational perspectives
African women, new medias, social media  
Global diaspora, transnational
Gendered sensibilities: Male gazes, masculinist/feminist?

Structuring the course thematically allowed me to bring together women across disciplines. One of the regrettable downsides to this endeavour, and which I emphasised to the students throughout the course, was that those whose work was accessible, whose presence was visible, who were studied, focused on, talked about, written about, promoted, were the ones who were most likely included as examples—and I consciously avoided any “starification” encouraged by gatekeepers and self-promoters. And of course there is the inherent limitation of the 16-week semester. And thus, my objective was to give visibility to as many as possible, no matter how tiny their (online, researched, written) presence, by a variety of activities and exercises—critical written reflections, research, presentations, panel discussion, simulated exhibition/festival—and above all, by my own acknowledgement and recognition of their work during the class lectures.

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