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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13 May 2020

REFLECTIONS ON Another Gaze presents: The Legacies of Sarah Maldoror (1929–2020) - 12 May 2020

REFLECTIONS ON Another Gaze presents: The Legacies of Sarah Maldoror (1929–2020) - 12 May 2020

On 12 May 2020, the feminist film journal Another Gaze hosted the virtual event, The Legacies of Sarah Maldoror, followed by hundreds of spectators.

Annouchka de Andrade and Henda Ducados introduced the life and work of their mother, Sarah Maldoror (1929-2020), as well as participated in ongoing dialogue with the "roundtable" participants and responded to questions from the audience. The interventions of Annouchka and Henda added a rare personal dimension of Sarah Maldoror as mother, as companion to Mario de Andrade, their father, and the behind-the-scenes life of a woman engagée, which the complexities of her life have made of her an enigmatic figure. This was definitely the highlight of the event.

The daughters’ introductions were followed by dynamic and powerful readings of extracts in French by Marie-Julie Chalu and the English version by Gazelle Mba of Cahiers d’un retour au pays natal (Return to my Native Land) by Aimé Césaire, a life-long friend and comrade.

The virtual "roundtable" discussion, moderated by founder-editor of Another Gaze, Daniella Shreir included Yasmina Price, Beti Ellerson, Awa Konaté, Janaína Oliveira, Nuotama Bodomo, Rooney Elmi. The myriad interpretations and analyses of the life and works of Sarah Maldoror ranged from academic discourse on the gendered political and social implications of her work, especially her earlier films that focused on revolutionary struggle and anticolonial cinemas, to conversations probing the ways that her work has informed contemporary Black feminist filmmaking, especially African women cultural producers working in diasporic spaces.

Nonetheless, the event could have benefited from the voices of those who know her and her work intimately having interacted with her artistically during her lifetime and who have followed her contemporaneously, which includes knowing directly her present work and how it has been influenced by her early periods. Moreover, she was a longtime resident of Seine Saint-Denis located in the "Grand Paris", a multicultural department which includes a diverse immigrant population. The documentation of its life and people has also been an important part of her work, for instance.

Additional comments added 18 May: A little more than a month after Sarah Maldoror's passing on 13 April, Le Monde published an article on 17 May highlighting the very high mortality level due to the Covid 19 epidemic in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis. This is a sad reminder that this epidemic took Sarah's life and that she too lived in this sprawling community where her neighbors are the key workers serving the needs of the Grand Paris, as health workers, caregivers, cashiers, vendors, delivery people, and hence, travel the furthest and most often and are more susceptible to exposure. So it is worth noting that while she is best known internationally for her work related to African liberation struggles, she quietly championed for a better life for the Séquano-Dionysiens--in the everyday, and as noted above, in her cinematic expression.

While the English-language interventions of the event were heavily anglo-phone centred, Annouchka and Henda hope that it will draw more international attention to the works of their mother. Moreover, they have opened Sarah's archives for research and study with the aim of making her work visible to an international public.

There was much talk about "building a legacy", I mentioned during the event, that within the “francophone” cinematic landscape Sarah Maldoror’s work has some visibility and recognition, and on numerous occasions she has received due tribute highlighting her life and legacy, naming a few in the past 2 decades:

2013 - Leçon de Cinema: Sarah Maldoror talks about her work and cinematic evolution.

2011 - Knight of the National Order of Merit(Website of French Government in French of speech by Frédérique Mitterand, minister of Culture et Communication) See translation here.

1998 - Leçon de Cinema: Sarah Maldoror talks about her work and her life. Festival International de Films de Femmes de Créteil, FIFF, Paris, France (See: http://www.eclap.eu/177441)

1998 - Sarah Maldoror ou la nostalgie de l'utopie, A film by Anne-Laure Folly (See: http://www.film-documentaire.fr/4DACTION/w_fiche_film/5850_ (See synopsis here). Annouchka stated that she tried to contact Anne-Laure Folly in 2019, and has been looking for the film as Sarah no longer had a copy. So it is not for sure that the film, is in fact accessible.

As one of the cinematic orphans of Sarah Maldoror, it has been an awakening, as she has led the way for me. When I told Sarah the title of my book "Sisters of the Screen" (2000), she cautioned me that we are not sisters really, but are each in our isolation making films. What she meant in fact was this implied solidarity among women in African cinema that I was projecting did not exist. I was determined that my work would be the beginning of this "sisterhood". Twenty years on, we'll see where we are.

So to Annouchka and Henda, I send my sincerest and heartfelt wishes, and hope that the gestures of support and the tributes in her honour will show that your mother’s work will live, and continue.

Reflections by Beti Ellerson (updated 18 May 2020)


Also read on the African Women in Cinema Blog :

REFLECTIONS ON Another Gaze presents: The Legacies of Sarah Maldoror (1929–2020) - 12 May 2020

Sarah Maldoror: Behind the cloud | Derrière le nuage

Remember Sarah Maldoror : A Pioneer in Cinema

Pionnière cinéaste Sarah Maldoror nous a quitté | Pioneer cineaste Sarah Maldoror has passed away (1929 - 2020)

Sarah Maldoror: Role Model and Pioneer

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