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.

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29 March 2019

African Women in Cinema Blog Updates | Actualités - 29.03.2019 News around the Internet | Les infos autour de l’Internet


AFRICAN WOMEN IN CINEMA BLOG
Updates | Actualités - 29.03.2019
News around the Internet
Les infos autour de l’Internet

Content | Contenu:

Marwa Zein
Mouvement #Mêmepaspeur 
Le Festival Massimadi 
- Claudine Ndimbira
- Wanuri Kahiu
- Kis keya
- Susanne Serres
- Omayra Issa
Fatou Kandé Senghor 
Selma Bargach
Victoria Thomas
Amina Weira
Amina Abdoulaye Mamani
Enquête d'Afrique - L'Afrique au féminin
- Nadège Batou
- Siam Marley

Marwa Zein (Sudan)
Cineuropa.org Review: Khartoum Offside by Vladan Petkovic
https://cineuropa.org/en/newsdetail/368041/

#Mêmepaspeur au Fespaco : et après ? par Cinewax Assoc 23 mar 2019
https://cinewax.org/blogs/media/memepaspeur-au-fespaco-et-apres

Le Festival Massimadi : festival des films et des arts LGBTQ+ afro - 11e édition
http://www.massimadi.ca/
She, 2015, Rwanda
Réalisé par Claudine Ndimbira
Présenté en version originale kinyarwanda avec sous-titres en anglais.
Durée : 12 min 14

Rafiki, 2018, Kenya
Réalisé par Wanuri Kahiu
Présenté en version originale en anglais et swahili, avec sous-titres en anglais.
Durée : 1 h 23

Panel
Rencontrez les réalisatrices Kis keya et Susanne Serres lors d’un panel animé par Omayra Issa.

Fatou Kandé Senghor 
TV5Monde Afrique
26 mars
La réalisatrice, photographe et productrice sénégalaise Fatou Kandé Senghor a bataillé pour se faire une place dans le monde très masculin du cinéma africain.
https://www.facebook.com/tv5mondeafrique/videos/fatou-kandé-senghor-africaine-cinéaste-et-militante/2540816952612333/

Selma Bargach parle de son film "Indigo" et de ses projets.  5 mar 2019. Source: Nadia Ouiddar - https://lematin.ma/express/2019/selma-bargach-parle-film-indigo-projets/311773.html

Victoria Thomas
Interview with Victoria Thomas, producer for British outfit Polkadot Factory and selected for the 2019 Emerging Producers programme. 5 Rarch 2019. Source: cineuropa.org - https://cineuropa.org/en/interview/368974/

Amina Weira: Interview. 2 mars 2019.
Source: Clapnoir - http://www.clapnoir.org/spip.php?article1217

Amina Abdoulaye Mamani
Une autre facette de la vie du poète et écrivain nigérien porté à l’écran par sa fille
27 fev 2019. Source: http://www.clapnoir.org/spip.php?article1209 

Enquête d'Afrique - L'Afrique au féminin : Nadège Batou et Siam Marley




28 March 2019

African Women Arts & Film Festival - AWAFFEST - 29-31 March 2019 - Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

African Women Arts & Film Festival
AWAFFEST is a platform to appreciate arts and stories of African women; to celebrate female practitioners; and to empower aspiring artists and filmmakers.

AWAFFEST 2019 ACTIVITIES

FRIDAY, MARCH 29TH
Arrivals
Filmmakers/ Artists Registration
OPENING NIGHT (MLIMANI CITY CINEMA CENTER)
Red Carpet - 6 PM
Networking
Inauguration of AWAFFEST
Short Films Screening

SATURDAY, MARCH 30TH (VILLAGE MUSEUM)
Arts Display/ Fashion Show - 8 AM to 6 PM
Music Performances/ Poetry Recitals - 8 AM to 6 PM
Food Tasting from various vendors - 8 AM to 6 PM
Networking
Feature Films Screening - 6 PM to 10 PM


SUNDAY, MARCH 31ST (NATIONAL MUSEUM)
Film Workshop - 11 AM to 1 PM
Dr. Mona Ngusekela Mwakalinga
Film and Media Professor
Department of Creative Arts
University of Dar es Salaam



CLOSING NIGHT/ AWARDS CEREMONY
Red Carpet - 6 PM
Networking
Performances
Short Film Screening
Speech
Awards Presentation/ Recognitions
Vote of Thanks

African Women's films | Les réalisatrices africaines : Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival 2019

African Women's films
Les réalisatrices africaines
Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival 2019 

Sade Adeniran: My Mother's Stew
Kaouther Ben Hania: Les Pastèques du Cheikh
Theresa Traoré Dahlberg: The French Ambassador's Wife
Angèle Diabang: Ma coépouse bien-aimée
Philippa Ndisi-Herrmann: I had to bury Cucu

https://clermont-filmfest.org/



My Mother's Stew
Sade Adeniran
Royaume-Uni, Angleterre, Nigeria / 2017 / Animation / 05'30
Synopsis
[English]
As a young woman stands outside her family home, the smell of her mother's stew evokes memories of a happier childhood. Can she reconcile her past with her present and the devastating news which keeps her outside the house?
[Français]
Une jeune femme passe devant la maison de ses parents. L'odeur de la soupe de sa mère lui évoque des souvenirs de son enfance heureuse. Mais une terrible nouvelle l'empêche de franchir le seuil de la maison.

Les Pastèques du Cheikh
Kaouther Ben Hania
France, Tunisie / 2018 / Fiction / 22'00
Synopsis
[English]
Cheikh Taher is a pious and respected imam. He agrees to pray at the body of a woman he does not know. But his pious act ends up being the sin that leads to his fall from power by Hamid, his Machiavellian and ambitious sidekick.
[Français]
Cheikh Taher est un imam pieux et respecté. Il accepte de prier sur la dépouille d'une femme qu'il ne connaît pas, mais son acte de piété s'avère le péché de trop qui précipitera la spoliation de son pouvoir par Hamid, son jeune sous-fifre machiavélique et ambitieux.

The Ambassador's Wife
Theresa Traoré Dahlberg
Suède, Burkina Faso / 2018 / Documentaire / 20'00
Synopsis
[English]
We find ourselves in an extravagant garden in Ouagadougou. The French Ambassador's wife dreamt about becoming a famous opera singer. Instead, she is now using singing as a way to survive her seemingly privileged life surrounded by workers.
[Français]
Nous sommes dans un jardin somptueux à Ouagadougou. La femme de l'ambassadeur français rêvait de devenir chanteuse d'opéra. À défaut, le chant est devenu pour elle une question de survie dans un environnement apparemment privilégié.

Ma coépouse bien-aimée
Angèle Diabang
Sénégal / 2018 / Documentaire/fiction / 15'09
Synopsis
[English]
Two new co-wives are alone in a large house; the husband and children are absent. They don't want to talk to each other. At the same time, in voiceover, two other women tell us about their own experiences of polygamy.
[Français]
Deux nouvelles coépouses sont seules dans une grande maison, le mari et les enfants absents. Elles ne veulent pas se parler. Simultanément, des voix en off de deux autres femmes nous racontent leurs expériences de la polygamie.

I had to bury Cucu
Philippa Ndisi-Herrmann
Kenya / 2018 / Fiction / 13'43
Synopsis
[English]
Geoffrey and his brother Kimanthi have to travel to Shimoni to bury their grandmother. It is a most dreadful journey for the two as it will bring them face to face with the man who sexually molested them years ago.
[Français]
Geoffrey et son frère Kimanthi doivent se rendre à Shimoni pour les funérailles de leur grand-mère. Ce voyage va les forcer à revoir un homme qui leur a infligé des violences sexuelles dans leur enfance.

27 March 2019

Research Agenda: African Women in Cinema | Faire avancer la recherche sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma (2009-2019)


Research Agenda: African Women in Cinema |
Faire avancer la recherche sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma (2009-2020)

A key goal of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to feature current research and critical discourse, through interviews, conference proceedings and analyses. Below is a selection of these articles published since its creation.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma a pour vocation de mettre en exergue la critique et la recherche à travers les entretiens, les comptes rendus de conférences et les analyses. Veuillez trouver ci-dessous un recueil d’articles publiés depuis sa création. 

25 Feb 2019

2018

13 Nov 2018
27 Oct 2018
24 Jul 2018
20 Jul 2018
19 Jul 2018
02 Jul 2018
25 May 2018
22 Mar 2018
17 Mar 2018
12 Feb 2018
02 Jan 2018


2017

09 Nov 2017
19 Oct 2017
12 Sep 2017
16 Sep 2017
18 May 2017
15 May 2017
04 Apr 2017
13 Mar 2017
10 Mar 2017
28 Feb 2017

2016

29 Dec 2016
30 Nov 2016
22 Nov 2016
27 Oct 2016
11 Oct 2016
30 Sep 2016
25 Aug 2016
18 Jul 2016
05 Jul 2016
29 Jun 2016
26 May 2016
25 May 2016
21 May 2016
27 April 2016
25 April 2016
04 Apr 2016
24 Mar 2016
11 Mar 2016
03 Mar 2016
29 Feb 2016
17 Feb 2016

2015

22 Dec 2015
16 Dec 2015
10 Dec 2015
22 Nov 2015
22 Nov 2015
03 Nov 2015
26 Oct 2015
22 Oct 2015
19 Oct 2015
29 Sep 2015
29 Jul 2015
16 Jul 2015
13 Jul 2015
02 Jun 2015
12 May 2015
19 Apr 2015
17 Apr 2015
09 Apr 2015
23 Mar 2015
11 Mar 2015
28 Feb 2015
16 Feb 2015
16 Feb 2015
22 Jan 2015


2014

31 Dec 2014
18 Dec 2014
14 Dec 2014
05 Dec 2014
03 Dec 2014
21 Sep 2014
06 Sep 2014
05 Sep 2014
04 Sep 2014
03 Sep 2014
02 Sep 2014
01 Sep 2014
31 Aug 2014
30 Aug 2014
29 Aug 2014
28 Aug 2014
27 Aug 2014
26 Aug 2014
31 Jul 2014
06 Jun 2014
11 May 2014
16 Apr 2014
11 Apr 2014
08 Apr 2014

2013

04 Dec 2013
13 Nov 2013
06 Oct 2013
06 Sep 2013
02 Aug 2013
25 Jun 2013
07 Jan 2013

2012

26 Dec 2012
13 Dec 2012
04 Dec 2012
19 Sep 2012
17 Jun 2012
07 May 2012
10 Mar 2012

2011

30 Dec 2011
14 Dec 2011
03 Dec 2011
01 Dec 2011
30 Nov 2011
14 Nov 2011
26 Oct 2011
28 Sept 2011
06 Aug 2011
28 Jul 2011
25 Jul 2011
09 Jun 2011
05 May 2011
20 Apr 2011
12 Jan 2011

2010

13 Dec 2010
23 Nov 2010
26 Oct 2010
12 Jul 2010
26 May 2010

10 Jul 2009
14 Jun 2009
29 May 2009
08 May 2009
23 Apr 2009
16 Apr 2009
01 Apr 2009

Samira Djingo: on her series "A Season in Niger" | sur sa série « Une saison au Niger »

Samira Djingo: on her series "A Season in Niger" | sur sa série  « Une saison au Niger »

Published 25 March, Agenda Niamey, an interview with Samira Seyni Djingo by Abdoulaye Ali. Translated from French

Samira Djingo on her series "A Season in Niger": It's the cry of a people concerned about safeguarding their values

Samira Djingo sur sa série  « Une saison au Niger » : C’est le cri d’un peuple inquiet quand à la sauvegarde de ses valeurs »

English [Français ci-après]

The announcement of the new series A Season in Niger, scheduled for an April 6th release circulates around the city and has been present on social networks for several weeks. Abdoulaye Ali of Agenda Niamey interviews Nigerwood director Samira Seyni Djingo to find out about the series.

Agenda Niamey - Your series "A Season in Niger" will be officially screened on April 6th. What is the series about?

Samira Seyni Djingo: A Season in Niger is a tragic love affair between Djingo who is Muslim and Natou  who is Christian, complicated by the interference of Djingo's parents.

A Season in Niger is also a father's revenge, who at the discovery of the pregnancy of his youngest daughter, asks his son to impregnate all the girls in the neighborhood.

A Season in Niger is the story of all our young talents (singers, rappers, dancers, comedians, stylists, etc.) who are languishing in the shadows for lack of encouragement.

A Season in Niger is also the story of all those young people who dream of a better life and who do not hesitate to cross the sea thinking that elsewhere is better and who most often find calamity during the journey.

A Season in Niger draws the attention of our young sisters who let themselves be carried away by the phenomenon of iPhones and wedding attire and end up selling themselves in order to be showcased in the said getup...

A Season in Niger is simply the cry of a concerned people safeguarding its values ​for the new generation.

Is this the first production under the designation “Nigerwood”?

Indeed the series A Season in Niger is Nigerwood’s first baby.

On which channels will the series broadcast?

A Season in Niger is in negotiation with two national channels and an international channel both of which are interested in the distribution of our series but I prefer to not reveal the names until we have signed.

Samira, what motivates your passion for cinema?

I do not really know in fact, I have loved cinema since childhood and I started playing roles in commercials when I was nine years old. Simply speaking, cinema fascinates me .... It's the only art that brings all the arts together. Originality attracts me and in cinema has free rein to express her creativity. It can make people laugh, cry as well as becomes annoyed.

We can share our sorrows, our joys, our experiences, we can tell the lives of others without making them uneasy and allow others to learn from them. We can educate with cinema, we can reconcile even enemies.... In short, cinema is simply wonderful.

[Français]

L’annonce de la nouvelle série « Une saison au Niger » fait le tour de la ville et est présente sur les réseaux sociaux depuis plusieurs semaines. Elle est prévue pour le 06 avril prochain. Pour permettre à nos lecteurs d’avoir un avant-goût de cette série 100% nigérienne, nous sommes partis à la rencontre de la réalisatrice de Nigerwood, Samira Seyni Djingo. Découvrez dans cette interview ce dont parle la série. Interview réalisée par Abdoulaye Ali. À LIRE EN FRANÇAIS


19 March 2019

Beatrice : un siècle | (a century) de/by Hejef Charf (Tunisia | Tunisie)

Beatrice : un siècle | (a century) de/by Hejef Charf (Tunisia | Tunisie)

[English] Français ci-après
Synopsis
Bice Beatrice Slama, 95 years old, Tunisian, communist, Jewish, feminist, specialist in women's literature. She has been actively involved in the political movements of the twentieth century. She talks about the Tunisian Communist Party and the Jewish and Arab youth who discovered each other in fraternity and love; her fight for the independence of Tunisia, the forced departure of the Jews, May 68, the adventure at the University of Vincennes. Love, desire, sexuality according to Colette, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras are discussed at length and continue to be hot topics of the day. The history of feminism is told with the words of Christine de Pizan and Hubertine Auclert and through the works of women in cinema, photography, painting, across the centuries. Beatrice, is a life of commitment and knowledge.

About the Filmmaker

Hejer Charf is a Canadian filmmaker and producer of Tunisian origin. She has directed several short and medium-length films, visual installations and documentaries. Her feature film Les passeurs received the Seal of Peace from the city of Florence, Italy. Around Maïr was released in Paris in 2016. She produced Victoria, a fiction written, directed and performed by Anna Karina. She has produced the concerts of Anna Karina and Philippe Katerine in Quebec.

The Filmmaker's Note of Intention
"I want you purely Unfaithful/ if I am of Faithful origin /
if I am Jewish, be Arab, / let me love you, /
let us love each other with our two innocent differences" Hélène Cixous

« je te veux purement Infidèle/ si je suis d'origine Fidèle,/ 
si je suis juive, sois arabe,/ laisse-moi t'aimer, /
aimons-nous avec nos deux innocences différentes,» 

We are Tunisians. She is Jewish. I am Muslim. Her committed, generous and learned eyes on the world extend to infinity, to the religions and the country that we have both left.

I met Bice Beatrice Slama in 2016; she was 93 years old. She came to see my film, Around Maïr, which talks about women's literature. She spoke first: "I will let my comrades talk about feminism; “I would like to talk about the form of the film and this long dark shot that recalls the cinema of Duras.” Immediately, I was thrilled and seduced. Two days later, I was dining at her house in Vincennes. I left unsettled, impressed by her precise presence, by her concise speech, erudite, without nostalgia or bitterness. She put her story in the grand History and repeated a phrase by Sartre: "Half victims, half accomplices, like everyone else.” She told me about her passion for books, the Tunisian Communist Party and the Jewish and Arab youth who discovered each other in fraternity and love, her fight for the independence of Tunisia, the houses that were seized from her because she was Jewish, of her departure for France, of May 1968 when she was reborn as an activist, of the adventure at the University of Vincennes, of Colette, whom she loved so much, of feminist texts, of her friends: Madeleine Rebérioux, Hélène Cixous, ...

Three days later, I returned with a small camera to prepare for the recording of this concentrated history. Bice Beatrice Slama is resolutely political and profoundly literary. A discreet life that has actively traversed the 20th century. I wanted to traverse it again with her. I wanted to give her the entire space, the whole duration of the film. I warned her that she would be the only speaker in the feature-length film and I will be alone behind the camera. She immediately went to work; she read, reread her research, books, Duras, de Beauvoir, Colette ... she had an obsession with conversation, anecdotes and rewrote her mediations, her responses. She told me she felt like she was taking her exams! Her story navigates the course of history. Her discourse is an expanding source that opens the film to other subjects, other images. The history of feminism is told with the words of Christine de Pizan and Hubertine Auclert and through the works of women in cinema, photography, and painting across the centuries. Beatrice will remain alive until the end of the film. While editing the film in Montreal, she warned me from time to time that she could no longer wait. I went to show her the film in September 2018, I lay down beside her on her medical bed. She watched nonstop for 97 minutes. She looked at me and took my hand. Bice Beatrice Slama died a few days later. She told me that our lives, our bodies, end, and there is nothing after, there is neither the beyond, nor heaven. She spoke of death with clarity, without fear. During the shooting about the departure of Tunisia, she said to me: "At the moment of departure, the first thing that I said to myself: But I will not be buried in the Borgel!" 

The tears welled up inside me, I lowered my head, we did not want tears in the film, she returned to her dialogue with her usual solemnity. This phrase and similar ones are not in the film; they are invisible, in an underground presence that runs throughout the entire film. Beatrice inspired me in this way: not to say too much, not to show too much, to put our story in the grand History. Keep our pain in the background to make way for the future. And facing the breakdown of ideas that carried her, she continued saying: "I dare to hope for a burst of humanism."

[Français]
Synopsis
Bice Béatrice Slama, 95 ans, Tunisienne, communiste, juive, féministe, spécialiste de la littérature des femmes. Elle a traversé activement les mouvements politiques du vingtième siècle. Elle raconte le parti communiste tunisien et la jeunesse juive et arabe qui se découvrait dans la fraternité et l'amour ; sa lutte pour l'indépendance de la Tunisie, le départ forcé des Juifs, Mai 68, l'aventure de l'université de Vincennes. L'amour, le désir, la sexualité selon Colette, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras sont longuement évoqués et demeurent d'une actualité brûlante. L'histoire du féminisme est dite avec les mots de Christine de Pizan et Hubertine Auclert et par les œuvres des femmes dans le cinéma, la photographie, la peinture à travers les siècles. Béatrice, une vie d'engagement et de savoir.

À propos de la réalisatrice
Hejer Charf est réalisatrice et productrice canadienne d'origine tunisienne. Elle a réalisé plusieurs courts et moyens métrages, des installations visuelles et des documentaires. Son long métrage LES PASSEURS a reçu le Sceau de la Paix de la ville de Florence, Italie.  AUTOUR DE MAÏR est sorti en salle à Paris en 2016. Elle a produit VICTORIA, une fiction écrite, réalisée et interprétée par Anna Karina. Elle a produit les concerts d'Anna Karina et Philippe Katerine au Québec.

Note d'intention de la réalisatrice
« je te veux purement Infidèle/ si je suis d'origine Fidèle,/ 
si je suis juive, sois arabe,/ laisse-moi t'aimer, /
aimons-nous avec nos deux innocences différentes,»   Hélène Cixous                          

Nous sommes Tunisiennes. Elle, juive. Moi, musulmane. Son regard engagé, généreux et savant sur le monde étend à l'infini les religions et le pays que nous avons toutes les deux quittés.

J'ai connu Bice Béatrice Slama en 2016, elle avait 93 ans, elle est venue voir mon film, Autour de Maïr qui parlait de la littérature des femmes. Elle a pris la parole en premier : « Je vais laisser mes camarades parler de féminisme; j'aimerais parler de la forme du film et de ce long plan noir qui rappelle le cinéma de Duras. »  J'étais tout de suite emballée et séduite. Deux jours après, je dînais chez elle à Vincennes. J'en suis sortie troublée, impressionnée par sa présence précise, par sa parole concise, érudite, sans nostalgie ou amertume. Elle mettait son histoire dans la grande Histoire et répétait la phrase de Sartre : « À moitié victimes, à moitié complices, comme tout le monde. » Elle m'a parlé de sa passion des livres, du parti communiste tunisien et de la jeunesse juive et arabe qui se découvrait dans la fraternité et l'amour, de son combat pour l'indépendance de la Tunisie, des maisons dont elle a été expropriée parce qu'elle était juive, de son départ pour la France, de Mai 68 où elle renaît comme militante, de l'aventure de l'université de Vincennes, de Colette qu'elle aimait tant, des textes féministes, de ses amies : Madeleine Rebérioux, Hélène Cixous, ...


Trois jours après, je suis retournée avec une petite caméra pour préparer l'enregistrement de ce concentré d'histoire.  Bice Béatrice Slama est résolument politique et profondément littéraire. Une vie discrète qui a traversé activement le 20ème siècle. Je voulais le retraverser avec elle. Je voulais lui donner tout l'espace, toute la durée du film. Je l'ai prévenue qu'elle serait la seule intervenante du long-métrage et je serai seule derrière la caméra. Elle s'est immédiatement mise au travail; elle a lu, relu ses recherches, des livres, Duras, de Beauvoir, Colette... elle avait la hantise du bavardage, de l'anecdote et a rédigé ses interventions, ses réponses. Elle me disait qu'elle avait l'impression de passer l'agrég ! Son récit remonte le cours de l'histoire. Sa parole est une source en expansion qui ouvre le film sur d'autres sujets, d'autres images. L'histoire du féminisme est dite avec les mots de Christine de Pizan et Hubertine Auclert et par les œuvres des femmes dans le cinéma, la photographie et la peinture à travers les siècles. Béatrice restera en vie jusqu'à la fin du film. Pendant que je montais le film à Montréal, elle m'alertait de temps en temps qu'elle ne pouvait plus attendre. Je suis allée lui montrer le film en septembre 2018, je me suis allongée auprès d'elle sur son lit médicalisé. Elle a regardé sans interruption les 97 minutes. Elle m'a regardée et m'a pris la main. Bice Béatrice Slama est morte quelques jours après. Elle me disait que nos vies, nos corps finissent et qu'il n'y a plus rien après, ni au-delà ni ciel. Elle parlait de la mort avec évidence, sans crainte. Pendant le tournage du départ de la Tunisie, elle m'a dit: « Au moment du départ, la première chose que je me suis dite: Mais je ne serai pas enterrée au Borgel ! » Les larmes me sont montées, j'ai baissé la tête, on ne voulait pas de larmes dans le film, elle a repris la parole avec sa sobriété habituelle. Cette phrase et les autres qui lui ressemblent, ne sont pas dans le film; elles sont dans le hors champs, dans une présence souterraine qui traversent tout le film. Béatrice m'a inspiré cela : ne pas trop dire, ne pas trop montrer, mettre notre histoire dans la grande Histoire. Tenir nos douleurs à l'arrière-plan pour laisser place à l'avenir. Et devant l'effondrement des idées qui l'ont portée, elle continuait à dire : « J'ose espérer un sursaut d'humanisme. »

13 March 2019

Words of Frieda Ekotto, producer of the film “Vibrancy of Silence: A Discussion With My Sisters”

Words of Frieda Ekotto, producer of the film “Vibrancy of Silence: A Discussion With My Sisters

In your work you have centered the role of women as artists and cultural activists in the context of knowledge production. African women makers are the “primary sources” of your study and research, their voices and the relating of their experiences inform the project Vibrancy of Silence. Please elaborate on the notion of African women and the production of knowledge as the theoretical framework of your project.

We assert that knowledge produced by women is key to understanding modern Africa. It cannot exist without their participation, for their work is essential to a return to the "colonial library" (Mudimbe 1988). This is because in Africa, women are at the center of everything. As in Pierre Bourdieu’s imaginary (1979), they are our tank and our “cultural capital.” Yet the power of their work is often invisible. Vibrancy of Silence is thus a long-term initiative devoted to creating a multi-media archive of Sub-Saharan African women and its diaspora. By bringing attention to women’s cultural production and experiences, the project offers both broad contextual scope and space for individual women to speak about their experiences. It addresses autobiography and storytelling. It explores and critiques notions of the archive, even as it creates a tangible archive of its own for this and future generations, and it brings attention to work by women cultural producers who actively examine contemporary life within Africa and its diaspora

The initiative begins in the awareness that being a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora can signify a multitude of vulnerabilities. Indeed, for many women, access to fundamental necessities such as healthcare and education is only theoretical. Even more critically, African women are often objects of discussion rather than its agents, and their work is thus rendered invisible, their voices silenced. It is for this reason that Vibrancy of Silence approaches visibility in the tradition of Toni Morrison’s work Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Through close readings of cultural production by women on the continent and in its diaspora, it explores historical trajectories as well as far-reaching tensions and anxieties. 

It also draws attention to the symbolic function women have had within African society. Indeed, one of Vibrancy of Silence’s primary aims is to deconstruct received ideas about African women. It invites women from many walks of life, countries and cultures to discuss their experiences, work and lives. When women tell their stories and offer their analyses of cultural factors and forces, they challenge and correct pervading silences. Thus, rather than talking about invisibility abstractly, the project offers concrete stories and visual art forms to supplement and support them. In addition, through analysis of transcribed and translated narratives, the project explores other issues such as genre conventions, gendered subjectivity, and narrative truth-value.  

The concept of autobiography as “an insertion of self into society” illustrates both the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and the broad range of discursive articulations of individuality. African women’s stories include elements of the concrete that shows the limits of postcolonial theories of history. For example, as African women have shown in their creative and knowledge-generating work, “history is,” as Fredric Jameson states, “what hurts.” Attention to autobiographical materials creates a space for women’s stories of suffering that have long been invisible. In addition, their work addresses questions of status, which are always conditioned upon the cleavage between their place in society and their work within the family. 

Along with visibility and storytelling, Vibrancy of Silence consciously addresses the concept of the archive as a place to access images and cultural production by African women and its diaspora. We do this because we are aware of the powers of the archive to shape the substance of our personal and collective memories, even as they locate visions of the past and project scenes of the future. Not just a repository of records, the archive governs what can be uttered in the present. It cannot be seized in its entirety: incommensurable, it looms larger than those who amassed the parts that constitute its whole. The archive must be probed for iterations (new versions) of the historical past, a past that is always disputed. 

Within an archive, images are powerful and affective mnemonics that draw the contours of the politics of (historio-graphic) representation. In focusing on the visualization of Africa through images, this project interrogates the ways in which societies witness, express and document their heritage and continuing identities through a vast array of tangible and intangible forms and formats. It asserts that traces of buried, discontinued, or untold stories about the past can often be discerned at the margin of the archive by the eager eye that reaches for them. 

The archive and its images are constantly shifting. Yet at any moment, you may enter it and appropriate its dynamic expressions: images of the archive, archiving images, images as archiving in process. At this Borgesian garden of forking paths, we find the African artist and her desire to create (with) meaningful records and impact the discourses on her community. By giving the images a trajectory that articulates some idea about the past, the artist crafts a more or less fleeting trace that also becomes part of the archive, awaiting new, unforeseen deployments. 

In addition to addressing theoretical aspects of the archive, we are working to create one in tangible form by collecting documents, including books, different forms of narratives and visual records. In this context, it is vital to talk about aesthetics. For African women as cultural producers, it is impossible to distinguish their work and the artistic phenomenon they represent as a whole, the visual images of their arts, the subject and object of their work. Here attention to aesthetics is critical. As artists, these women are creating work that explores experience in subtle and insightful ways.

Finally, Vibrancy brings attention to women’s activism. From north to south and from east to west, African women are producing images and knowledge that affects society. These women are activists, and therefore in opposition to regimes of power; they are controversial, aggressive, and provocative. Despite the rising repression of dictatorships, African women remain involved, anchored in the social. They are aware of their position as women upon the African continent. As such, many appropriate monstrosity à la Sade as perversion, an experience that exposes political violence as a force that causes people to suffer on a daily basis. 

For example, African women filmmakers rely on the power of images to bring about a social conscience. They insist that the visual remain on the side of minorities, particularly women, and all disenfranchised. With direct interventions, they create fractures within unspoken traditions that oppressed them. Their subtle images are sensitive to the unseen, to what remains invisible within the political realm, to the silence that keeps women in the shadows. In addition, they can speak of intimate matters. The can question the ongoing suffering of women within religious systems, address the psychiatric illnesses that stem from economic exploitation, which alienates women and young people in particular, as well as shed light upon women’s sexual lives, a highly taboo topic. Critically, this work is beginning to address the fact that the experiences of African women conform neither to African heteronormative discourses, nor to those established by Western LGBTQ+ communities and scholarship. Here, too, storytelling and visibility are keys to understanding the beauty and variety of women’s lived experiences.


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