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.

06 September 2014

Teaching African Women in Cinema, Art and Culture – Parts 1-9: reflections by Beti Ellerson

Teaching African Women in Cinema, Art and Culture – Parts 1-9:  reflections by Beti Ellerson

During the spring 2014 semester I taught the course African Women in Art and Cinema at Denison University. During the past two weeks of Blog posts, I shared my experiences in teaching the course: my desire for creating the course, its objectives, methodology, the course readings, the course exercises, and selected student reflections, which were published with their permission. In addition to the readings and visual materials, the wide range of exercises offered a dynamic, interactive exchange between the students and me, and among the students themselves—notably the panel forum that entailed the preparation and discussion of an assigned group topic. The final exercise encompassed a simulated event/environment showcasing African women cultural producers based on an assigned theme—an exciting culmination of the semester!

What I learned above all from the experiences of teaching this course was the incontestable fact that with available, accessible and organised materials and resources, a course such as this, perhaps seemingly obscure to some, may be taught, not just as a session or two within a course, or as a week-long seminar, but as a semester course. What still remains an obstacle, nonetheless, is the availability of films, which is the case in African cinema studies in general due to the restraints of distribution. And perhaps the most frustrating, the fact that resources—for various reasons— are not always accessible directly from the continent. Nonetheless, as I have attempted to frame the course using a non-deficit approach in order to show the empowering and positive visual representations, voices and discourse, I remain within that spiritBeti Ellerson


In the Part 1 Blog post, I present the course description. Part 2 elaborates the course structure, outline and themes. Part 3 focuses on introductory sources that frame theoretical and critical practices of interpretation and contextualise women artists’ multiple experiences. Part 4 investigates the themes “women’s voices” and “women’s stories” and the ways in which they are contextualised and problematized. Part 5 explores the plurality of women’s experiences based on assigned artists/filmmakers for which students did research and prepared a visual oral presentation. Part 6 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. Part 7 focuses on the theme: interrogating identities, bodies, sexualities, femininities. Part 8 examines themes around intergenerational, transnational, global diaspora: Under the theme, intergenerational perspectives, the class follows the evolution, tendencies and trends, from the pioneering women to the present generation. The themes globality, transnational, diaspora are problematized around the question of the positionality of the gaze. Part 9 is framed around the question “is there a gendered sensibility? If so, what does a woman’s sensibility look like?”

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