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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26 December 2021

African Women in Cinema: Perspectives from Scandinavia - Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden

African Women in Cinema: Perspectives from Scandinavia - Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden


I enjoyed having two homes in different countries [Sweden and Burkina Faso], and it helped me to get a greater understanding and perspective of different cultures and values.--Theresa Traoré Dahlberg

That issues around identity, positionality and social location permeate film screenings and debates of the Scandinavian African Diaspora is indicative of its growing interest in focusing on African representations drawing from global Africa. Hence offering venues in which topics regarding the experiences of people of African descent may be raised, debated and understood. Swedish-Burkinabé Theresa Traoré Dahlberg, born to a mother from Sweden and a father from Burkina Faso reflects this diversity and desire to show realistic images of Africa in her filmmaking: Taxi Sisters about women drivers from Senegal, and Ouaga Girls, about women auto mechanics in Burkina Faso.

The Stockholm-based Cinema Africa Film Festival, created in 1998, provides a platform and forum for African films in Sweden. The 2015 edition was dedicated to African women in film, featuring film screenings and a panel discussion with African women directors.

Similarly, in 2015, the Danish Centre for Gender, Equality and Diversity organized "Stories Untold" a project that involved twelve women from Jordan, Oman, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon, in order to tell their stories through film.

FilmAfrikana, an independent Oslo-based film festival founded by Norwegian-Ghanaian Lamisi Gurah, had as its objective to expose the Norwegian public to films by people of Africa and the African Diaspora. While it is no longer active--though the Nordic Black Theatre continues to thrive--its goal was to provide a different perspective regarding the African continent. The 2011 edition, featured women of Africa and the Diaspora in front of and behind the camera.

Finland has been a partner of Zambia screen culture since the 1990s, since then there has been a flurry of African-film focused initiatives. Pioneer filmmaker and activist Musola Cathrine Kaseketi received support from Finnish sponsors to attend the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg, where she graduated with honors, including the award for Best Student of the Year in 2000. Her relationship with Finland continued with the creation of Vilole Image Productions in 2002, which was supported by the Embassy of Finland through the Fund for Local Cooperation.

In 2010 Seya Kitenge Fundafunda attended a film internship program in Helsinki, which showed a particular interesting in training young Zambians interested in filmmaking. Similarly, Jessie Chisi enrolled in the training program. In addition she connected with the Finnish film association, Euphoria Boralise, doing several projects.

Wanjiku wa Ngugi, a resident in Finland at the time, founded the Helsinki African Film Festival in 2010. She felt that even though perceptions of Finland give the impression of conservatism, to the contrary, she sees that there is much more openness within Finnish society, which was also evident by the fact that the festival initiative was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hence, Wanjiku used the Festival to create an opportunity to see a different view of Africa. Her objective for founding the festival: "to show the diversity of this continent, and begin a different conversation, one informed by a more realistic view as told by the Africans themselves."

The 2011 edition focused its theme on "Women's Voices and Visions"." Wanjiku had this to say about the theme for that year: "We wanted to not only celebrate women in film but also raise awareness about the African women’s experience, highlight the global economic and political issues that affect them. We also wanted to showcase the diversity of African women, as well as hopefully move away from the tendency to depict African women as weak, voiceless and always as victims."
 
Report by Beti Ellerson

A selection of articles about African women and Scandinavia (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden) on the African Women in Cinema Blog
 
Stories Untold: We all have lives. We all have stories. We all have phones
#Denmark
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/04/stories-untold-we-all-have-lives-we-all.html
 

Theresa Traore Dahlberg
#Sweden

24 December 2021

Music, Song and Dance in the Films of African Women

Music, Song and Dance
in the Films of African Women
by Beti Ellerson
 
Notes to continue...
 
“Haunting” is how Safi Faye describes the voice of Yandé Codou Sène, as it reverberates throughout the film Mossane, with recurrent chants, performing as the non-diegetic storyteller, setting the dramatic tone of the fate of the eponymous protagonist, the beautiful Mossane.

Yandé Codou Sène (1932-2010), the griot of poet-president Leopold Sédar Senghor, lauded his praises as she accompanied him on his official and social visits. The griot continues to hold an important place in African traditions. Safi Faye’s incorporation of Yandé Codou Sène’s voice highlights the manner in which the griotic chant within oral storytelling has functioned as a site of intergenerational transfer of cultural knowledge and the transmission of everyday political and social discourse. It is also the voice of conscience, asking questions about Mossane’s well being, about the ramifications of the choices that others are making about her life; its role is to interpellate and question the social order. It is all the more compelling that Yandé Codou Sène is not seen. Hence, her enthralling voice is an integral part of the narrative: introducing Mossane, the Serer legend, and the wandering beggar boy, joining in the ancestral ceremony; lamenting Mossane’s suffering, eulogizing her death and posing questions regarding the village’s fate.

Angèle Diabang's Yandé Codou, the Griotte of Senghor and Yandé Codou Sène, diva séeréer by Laurence Gavron, recount the life of this mythical figure, the only one who could interrupt Leopold Sedar Senghor’s speech with a song of praise.

Similarly, in the documentary Calypso Rose, Pascale Obolo's relates the world of this diva from Trinidad, "who has dedicated her whole life to music, to her art. In Nadja Harek's Tata Milouda, the slammeuses from Algeria flees her old life--abusive and violent-- and becomes a slam star in France. "Thanks to writing and slam, she reclaimed her freedom".

Afrikaners Rina Jooste, who worked as a freelance musician and for theatre productions tells stories using drama / music to portray social messages. Similarly, Rama Thiaw who was influenced by hip hop and the social movement brought about by the Senegalese activist hip hop group Positive Black Soul (aka PBS), reflects this activsm in her work. Her documentary, The Revolution won’t be televised, which shows her direct influence by Gil Scott Heron, the godfather of social and political hip hop activism, incorporates the elements of hip hop as a conceptual framework and symbol for change.

For Dyana Gaye, the musical comedy Un transport en commun | St. Louis Blues was a way to combine her myriad ideas from dance and music, using cinema to bring them all together. Similarly, Armande Lo, who has always been passionate about music, art and cinema directed the short fiction film Betty Jazz, about a woman who dreams of being a jazz singer. Caroline Kamya's Imani used music as the essential ingredient of the film, blending popular contemporary local language acoustic and hiphop, with traditional African rhythms beats: "The use of music that is an integral part of life in Africa and in the Diaspora take centre stage in my film." Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nyaminyami Amaji Abulozi (Nyaminyami and the Evil Eggs) is a musical adaptation of ancient Tonga folklore.
 
A selection of articles on the African Women in Cinema Blog about music, song and dance in the films of African Women

Caroline Kamya's Imani
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2010/09/caroline-kamyas-imani.html

Nyaminyami Amaji Abulozi (Nyaminyami and the Evil Eggs), a film by Tsitsi Dangarembga
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2011/12/towards-critical-debate-nyaminyami.html

Armande Lo: Betty Jazz
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/02/festival-films-femmes-afrique-2020_59.html

On a le temps pour nous by/de Katy Lena Ndiaye (Sénégal)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/02/fespaco-2019-on-le-temps-pour-nous-byde.html

Abeti Masiniki by/de Laura Kutika and Ne Kunda Nlaba
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2018/07/cinef-4-2018-cinema-au-feminin-kinshasa.html

Dyana Gaye: Un transport en commun/St. Louis Blues
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2011/02/dyana-gaye-un-transport-en-communst.html

Rina Jooste : Visualising South African History Across the Divide
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2012/12/rina-jooste-visualising-south-african.html

Rahma Benhamou El Madani: “I try to reconnect with my roots through my films.”
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2012/01/rahma-benhamou-el-madani-i-try-to.html

Iman Kamel talks about her beloved home Egypt, storytelling through cinema and her film project Jeanne d'Arc Masriya
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2016/02/iman-kamel-talks-about-her-beloved-home.html

Un air de Kora de/by Angèle Diabang (Sénégal)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/02/fespaco-2019-un-air-de-kora-deby-angele.html

Aïssata Ouarma - Félicia Kouakou Abossi Abenan - Sara Mikayil
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/02/fespaco-2015-film-schools-ecoles-de.html

Ghanaian-American Rebekah Frimpong launches an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the documentary film project "Adowa"
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/09/ghanaian-american-rebekah-frimpong.html

British-Nigerian Remi Vaughan-Richards talks about “Faaji Agba”
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/10/british-nigerian-remi-vaughan-richards.html

Rama Thiaw talks about the “Making of” The Revolution will not be Televised
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.fr/2013/05/rama-thiaw-talks-about-her-film.html
 
Malibala, women sing in solidarity with Mali, an initiative of Fatou Kandé Senghor
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2013/01/malibala-women-sing-in-soldidarity-with.html

In Memory of Yandé Codou Sène (1932-2010)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2010/07/in-memory-of-yande-codou-sene-1932-2010.html

A look at women in Senegalese hip-hop | Regards féminins sur le hip-hop sénégalais – Analysis by/analyse par Fatou Sall
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-look-at-women-in-senegalese-hip-hop.html

Tata Milouda by/de Nadja Harek (Algeria | Algérie / France)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/02/fespaco-2019-tata-milouda-byde-nadja.html
 
“Living Legends”, Akosua-Asamoabea Ampofo, USA
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2018/10/ndiva-womens-film-festival-2018-living.html

Naabiga, le prince by/de Zalissa Zoungrana (Burkina Faso)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/02/fespaco-2019-naabiga-le-prince-byde.html

Pascale Obolo : "Calypso Rose the lioness of the jungle"
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2013/02/fespaco-2013-pascale-obolo-calypso-rose.html

Kickstarter Crowdfunding Campaign for film on Ethiopian Nun Composer Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2016/03/kickstarter-crowdfunding-campaign-for.html
 
Rumba in the Jungle, the return by Yolanda Keabatswe Mogatusi (South Africa)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/10/ndiva-womens-film-festival-2019-rumba.html

23 December 2021

African Women's Cinematic Love Stories and Other Matters of the Heart

African Women's Cinematic Love Stories and Other Matters of the Heart
 
To talk about love in Rwanda is to be able to tell stories that people hold dear, that are poetic and funny while at the same time posing a fundamental question: How do we love each other after a genocide?--Jacqueline Kalimunda

Mahen Bonetti, founder and director of the New York African Film Festival had this to say about love stories from Africa: “When thinking of Africa," she says, "the definition of love is vague or absent. The word love is always overshadowed by crisis—AIDS, drought, warfare. So when thinking of the continent of Africa, one does not think of the word love in relation to the emotions and tension that accompanies the concept."

Hence African women's cinematic love stories relate the myriad sentiments on the continuum of expressions of the heart:  the taboo, desire, obsession, forbidden love, longing, passion, jealousy, revenge, courtship, first love, sexualities.

Ekwa Msangi's Farewell Amor attempts to explore this affective characteristic which Mahen Bonetti finds lacking in representations of the African experience. She has this to say about her interest in the theme of love in her film Farewell Amor: …I want to explore the theme of black love in this film, and specifically how it pertains to African people. Probably for religious reasons (among many others), the ways in which love, longing and relationship is discussed and portrayed in African film is very limiting. I’m hoping to expand to scope with this film.

In her film Vers la tendresse (Towards tenderness), Alice Diop reveals the experiences of four young men who while speaking openly, are either locked in the sexual and romantic representations they have internalized or are on the verge of breaking out of them. Similarly, Leyla Bouzid's Une Histoire d'amour et de désir (A Tale of Love and Desire), Leyla Bouzid wanted to go beyond the clichés that show representations of men of North African origin with a very virile, visible masculinity on display. She wanted to relate the experiences of a shy young man with a passion for literature and a pure vision of love.

Notes to continue...

A selection of articles about cinematic loves stories and other matters of the heart on the African Women in Cinema Blog:

Holy Fatma: Please Love me Forever
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/11/francetv-libre-court-holy-fatma-please.html

Leyla Bouzid: A Tale of Love and Desire
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/09/a-tale-of-love-desire-leyla-bouzid-falila-gbadamassi.html

Désirée Kahikopo: The White Line
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/12/ecrans-noirs-2020-white-line-la-ligne.html

Before the Vows by Nicole Amarteifio
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/10/ndiva-womens-film-festival-2019-before.html

Dorcas Gloria Ahouan-Gonou : Le fruit defendu | The Forbidden Fruit
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2018/06/mis-me-binga-2018-dorcas-gloria-ahouan.html

Rafiki by/de Wanuri Kahiu : Cannes 2018 - Un Certain Regard (Kenya)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2018/04/rafiki-byde-wanuri-kahiu-cannes-2018-un.html

Zin’naariya ! | The Wedding Ring | L’Alliance d’or by/de Rahmatou Keïta (Niger)
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2017/02/luxor-african-film-festival-2017_28.html

Jacqueline Kalimunda : Love in Rwanda | De l'amour au Rwanda
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2017/02/jacqueline-kalimunda-love-in-rwanda-de.html

Single Rwandan / Celib Rwandais by/de Jacqueline Kalimunda analyse/analysis by/par Viviane Azarian
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/06/single-rwandan-celib-rwandais-byde.html

Nijla Mu’min’s Jinn, A Film About Identity, Islam and First Love
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2016/07/nijla-mumins-jinn-film-about-identity.html

When Alice Diop takes us "towards masculine tenderness"
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.fr/2016/03/when-alice-diop-takes-us-towards.html

Hermon Hailay: Price of Love | Le Prix d’amour
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/02/fespaco-2015-hermon-hailay-price-of.html

Experiments with love: young South African women filmmakers
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/10/experiments-with-love-young-south.html

Difficult Love by Zanele Muholi
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.fr/2015/09/difficult-love-by-zanele-muholi-and.html

Constance Ejuma, producer-filmmaker-actor, discusses Ben & Ara
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2014/11/constance-ejuma-producer-filmmaker.html

Marie Kâ : L’Autre Femme | The Other Woman (Senegal)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2013/11/marie-ka-lautre-femme-other-woman.html

Report by Beti Ellerson

22 December 2021

African Women, Screen Culture, Heterotopian Spaces, Otherworlds: Afrofuturistic, dystopia, fantasy, supernatural, science fiction, mythology

African Women, Screen Culture, Heterotopian Spaces, Otherworlds: Afrofuturistic, dystopia, fantasy, supernatural, science fiction, mythology


A selection of articles on the African Women in Cinema Blog related to African Women, Screen Culture and Heterotopian Spaces, Otherworlds: afrofuturistic journeys, dystopian spaces, phantastamorgia, supernatural beings, mythological encounters, science fictional worlds.


Holy Fatma: Fatale Orientale (Blooming Dalia)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/10/holy-fatma-fatale-orientale.html.html

Holy Fatma: Please Love Me Forever
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/11/francetv-libre-court-holy-fatma-please.html

Souad Douibi: M9awda
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/11/souad-douibi-m9kawda.html

Super Sema. An Afro-futuristic animation series: Time to Change the World
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/03/super-sema-afro-futuristic-animation.html

Eden Tinto Collins, Gystere Peskine: WOMXN
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/02/festival-films-femmes-afrique-2020-eden.html

Kantarama Gahigiri: Tanzanite
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/06/kantarama-gahigiri-tanzanite-un-projet.html

Malenga Mulendema: Mama K’s Team 4, animated series (Zambia)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/04/netflix-mama-ks-team-4-animated.html

Nikyatu Jusu: Suicide by Sunlight, a horror film
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/12/suicide-by-sunlight-2019-horror-film-by.html

Cyrielle Raingou : Challenge (Cameroon | Cameroun)
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2018/06/mis-me-binga-2018-cyrielle-raingou.html

Nnedi Okorafor's award-winning novel "Who Fears Death" to be adapted for TV series
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2017/07/nnedi-okorafor-award-winning-novel-who.html

Tibeb Girls, an animation project by Bruktawit Tigabu (Ethiopia)
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2017/04/tibeb-girls-animation-project-by.html

Siam Marley: Normalium (Cote d’Ivoire)
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2017/02/fespaco-2017-normalium-byde-siam-marley.html

Jabu Nadia Newman: The Foxy Five Web Series (South Africa)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-foxy-five-web-series-created-and.html

Beti Ellerson: African Women of the Screen at the Digital Turn | Écrans d’Afrique au féminin au tournant numérique
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2016/04/african-women-of-screen-at-digital-turn.html

France Bodomo: Afronauts (Ghana)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2014/07/afronauts-by-france-bodomo-ghana.html

Wanuri Kahiu: Afrofuturism and the African
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2012/09/wanuri-kahiu-afrofuturism-and-african.html

21 December 2021

Death, loss and mourning in films by and about African women

Death, loss and mourning
in films by and about African women
by Beti Ellerson

In the ending chant at the final scene of Mossane, as the procession carrying Mossane’s body passes the ubiquitous baobab tree, a recurrent image throughout the film, Yandé Codou Sène completes the Serer myth of the beautiful Mossane, punctuating the verse with effusive praise, and unknowable questions--since it is etched in Serer legend, has always been, and will continue to be:

 
Who chose our village
laying Mossane on its shores?

Sparkling pearl
at the merchants

Sweet calabash
so fresh and so fragile

In the blue sky
like a forestand its haughty bouquet of palm trees
before the axe

O Mossane,
magnificent emblem of the sun

Around you, there is no rush

It is fate that has render us deaf
to your anguish

O Mossane
in our songs
your face forever radiant
O Pearl of Mbissel

Taken away at such a young age
Roog did say
that you would only have fourteen winters

Do you remember that day?
A cloud of dust
enveloping Mbissel

Mossane, sister of Ngor
reposes
It is the end of her night

Who chose our village,
laying Mossane on its shores?
 
Notes to continue...

A subtext of the two fiction films, Sous la clarté de la lune and Pour la nuit, is death and separation from the African mother. At the beginning of Isabelle Boni-Claverie's film Pour la nuit (For the Night, 2004), the young woman Muriel, raised by her European father and African mother in France, buries her mother; it is at the funeral that her shame of her mother’s African-ness, her mother’s speech, her voice, surfaces. Both father and daughter reveal to each other for the first time, at the site of the African woman’s reposed body, the tensions that surrounded their relationship to her African-ness. The father accuses the daughter of being ashamed of her mother because she was African; the daughter accuses the father of not really being interested in understanding his wife, knowing her deeply, knowing who she was. Though this beginning is only a brief part of the story in this fiction short, it provides the context for the emotional drama that ensues as Muriel seeks to free herself. In Sous la clarté de la lune (Under the Moonlight, 2004) by Apolline Traoré from Burkina Faso, young Martine has become someone very different, having being raised in Europe by her European father, rather than in Africa by her African mother. The uprooted Martine, returns briefly to Africa with her father, discovering her African roots through her mother. And yet, she does not realize the woman’s relationship to her, as she was kidnapped by her father while still a baby, a trauma of which her mother suffered a double loss, her daughter and her voice, as she was rendered speechless. Upon Martine's brief return the mother recovers her voice and rediscovers her daughter, only to lose her again to death.

***

Refusal that ultimately ends in death

Mossane, Beletech (Harvest 3000, Haile Gerima) and Diouana (La Noire de..., Ousmane Sembene) die in very different stories, the reason leading up to their death equally dissimilar. And yet the act of refusal plays a role in the deaths.

In Safi Faye’s Mossane rebellion and resistance are deeply rooted in the story, and it is ultimately Mossane's refusal that she pays with her life. And yet it is her mother Mingue who loses the most, her daughter—who she sacrifices for financial comfort, and the dowry which she will not receive—since Mossane will not be "delivered". Safi Faye implies that the consciousness raising begins after the death of Mossane—when the story has ended. It is then that Mingue realizes her complicity and understands the consequences. If she had only listened more closely to Mam, if she had not been deaf to the words of her daughter who demanded to make her own choices.

At the closing sequence, as Mingué, followed by the other villagers run sorrowfully towards the sea at the sound of the death knell, Mam’s voice is heard relating the end of the legend: "Never forget: Siga, daughter of Leona, Yacine of Dioffior. They left before getting married." As the same group stands stricken with grief after Mossane’s body is retrieved from the sea, Mam walks pass them as she completes her refrain: "All left, taken away with their virtues. Mossane is gone." Mam’s storytelling dissolves into the continuing action of the film’s final sequence, revealing the remaining elements of the legend, which now includes Mossane. That Leona's daughter Siga was taken away 400 years ago, followed by Dioffior's daughter Yacine 200 years later, both like Mossane before they were married, and now 200 years in the present, Mossane has also been taken away. 

Beletech refuses to be confined to the strict gender role assigned to girls/women. As if a premonition, right before her death she declares, looking directly at the camera: "Even if I am a woman, I will not submit, I am not afraid". In part, her death results from her transgression of the boundaries of work, insisting on taking the freedom to play, in the same way that the boys are allowed. She acknowledges this as she runs frantically down the hill to save the cow that is in the midst of the imminent floodwaters: "Oh my misfortune, I wish I had not gone to play. Oh my bad luck! What’s going to happen to me?" She indeed recalls the earlier warning of her master: "Tend the cattle—See that none gets lost. Quick! I’m warning you. If just one is missing you’ll pay with your life." Beletech's mother is inconsolable. In the tradition of shaving the women’s hair, the spectator takes part in what seems to be the entire shaving ritual, as each strand of the mother's hair is removed. With their shaven heads, the grief-stricken mother and grandmother prepare the meal. The mourning around the smoldering fire in the smoked-filled room installs more drama.

Diouana's daydreams are in the form of muses, of flashbacks to Dakar, relating past events that lead to her journey to France. She feels increasingly isolated, imprisoned, she becomes despondent. Diouana begins to make a mental note of the acts of betrayal she experiences from her employers: she is given an apron to wear, she is told to take off her high heel shoes, she is called lazy, she has not visited France as she was promised.

Her only link to Africa is the mask that she presented as a gift to her employers while still in Dakar. She takes it from the wall, and again muses about Dakar. Her ultimate refusal and resistance comes when "Madame" attempts to reclaim the mask. Diouana refuses. In her final break with the job and all its trappings, she refuses the money that "Monsieur" counts out to her. Falling to her knees, she sobs silently.

While preparing her suitcase, Diouana recounts the mistreatment that she has endured, especially by "Madame". As she enumerates the litany of misdeeds, she repeats "never again". She dresses, coifs her hair continuing to recall the list of offenses. Leaving the room and the camera frame, she goes to the bathroom. The door shut, the camera cuts to the inside, revealing her lifeless body in a bathtub filled with bloody water.

Diouana's suicide is the final rebellion against her employer: the ultimate refusal to be a slave.

20 December 2021

African Women Make Sport Movies

African Women Make Sport Movies

A selection of articles about African women and sports films on the African Women in Cinema Blog

Joan Kabugu: Throttle Queens
#Kenya #motorcycling
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/11/joan-kabugu-throttle-queens.html

Amleset Muchie: Min Alesh?
#Ethiopia #running
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/02/nyaff-2021-amleset-muchie.html

Florence Bamba: Numéro 10
Congo-France #soccer
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/01/recent-films-florence-bamba-numero-10.html

Mayye Zayed: Ash Ya Captain | Lift Like a Girl
#Egypt #weightlifting
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/08/mayye-zayed-ash-ya-captain-lift-like.html

Naziha Arebi - Freedom Fields
#Libya #soccer
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/09/naziha-arebi-freedom-fields-afrika-film.html

Marwa Zein: Oufsaiyed Elkhortoum (Khartoum Offside)
#Sudan #soccer
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/01/oufsaiyed-elkhortoum-khartoum-offside.html

Iman Djionne: Boxing Girl | La Boxeuse
#Senegal #boxing
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2017/03/luxor-african-film-festival-2017-la.html

Jessie Chisi: Between Rings: The Esther Phiri Story
#Zambian #Boxing
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2014/09/jessie-chisi-talks-about-between-rings.html

Florence Ayisi: Soccer Queens
#Cameroon #Tanzania #soccer
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2010/06/florence-ayisis-soccer-queens.html

African Girls Make Movies Too
#worldcup
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2010/06/african-girls-make-movies-too.html

Yveline Nathalie Pontalier: “Le club des silencieux” |  (the “The Silent Club”)
#Gabon #soccer #deafculture
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/01/yveline-nathalie-pontalier-lance-une.html

Rumbi Katedza: The Team | l'Équipe
#Zimbabwe #conflictresolution
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2013/02/fespaco-2013-rumbi-katedza-team-l.html

Rama Thiaw, A Young Filmmaker in the Struggle
#Senegal #wrestling
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2011/09/rama-thiaw-young-filmmaker-in-struggle.html


19 December 2021

Black Camera. Part 3: The Documentary Record: Statements, Declarations, Resolutions, Manifestos - Volume 13, Number 1, 2021

 
Black Camera: An International Film Journal
 
African Cinema: Manifesto & Practice for Cultural Decolonization
Part 3: The Documentary Record: Statements, Declarations, Resolutions, Manifestos
The New Series: Volume 13, Number 1, 2021

The latest issue of Black Camera: An International Film Journal concludes a two-year, three-part collaboration with Gaston Kaboré, filmmaker and director of IMAGINE Film Institute, and the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), a major biannual festival devoted to African and Black diasporic cinemas.

 
 
 
Announcing the special 3-part series by BLACK CAMERA: 
 

The first issue in the collaboration covers the formation, evolution and challenges of FESPACO. The second addresses colonial antecedents, constituents, theory and articulations. The final issue includes statements, declarations, resolutions and manifestos. Together, the issues constitute about 2,000 pages.
 
A scholarly publication supported by The Media School, the journal is edited by professor Michael Martin.


18 December 2021

Men through a Female Gaze: Gendered Experiences of Men in Films by African Women

Men through a Female Gaze:
Gendered Experiences of Men in Films by African Women

In many films by African women about men and boys, gendered experiences through a female gaze reveal a particular sensitivity and perspective.

Yvonne Jila of the Harare-based International Images Film Festival (IIFF) for Women emphasizes the importance of films that "portray men as positive role models and great allies to women by recognizing that the human struggle is common to all and is not gender specific."

Siza Mukwedini's Mukanya was inspired by conversations around the state of Zimbabwe as well as African fathers in the face of patriarchy and changing perspectives of what fatherhood is all about.
From a past marred by drunkenness and violence, the village menace, Mukanya, embarks on a journey to redeem himself by saving his son, who has become a reflection of Mukanya’s failures as a father. This is the journey of two men transforming into fathers.

Twiggy Matiwana's The Bicycle Man shows a sensitive side of the manner in which a man deals with what is generally viewed as a woman’s illness: breast cancer.

In A Tale of Love and Desire, Leyla Bouzid wanted to talk about a shy young man, an experience that exists but that is rarely represented. Stuck in clichés the only representations of men of North African origin are displayed of a very virile, visible masculinity.

In Towards Tenderness, Alice Diop searched for what it was to be a man, the difficulty to love, the difficulty of being and becoming a man in a ultra-sexualised world marked by advertising images, where love is reduced to a consumer product (Sylvie Braibant)

At the 2011 edition of the Harare-based International Images Film Festival (IIFF) for Women the category Best Male Against Gender-based Violence was introduced to highlight the role of men as active players in the fight against gender-based violence. Similarly, the "New Man" section of the Festival introduced screenings of films that highlighted a new consciousness of what it takes to fulfill the role of a responsible, caring and loving “New Man” in African societies. In addition, The African Fathers Initiative of Zimbabwe was very visible at the awards event. The African Fathers Initiative describes its purposes as follows: the African Fathers Initiative is an Africa-wide organization aiming at improving the well-being of children and families by promoting involved, responsible and committed fathers. We aim to build an African consensus that active involved fathers can improve men, women and children’s lives. From our base in Harare, Zimbabwe we involve all men and women who want to know more about the value of fathering and fatherhood initiatives throughout Africa.

A selection of articles about gendered experiences of men in films by African women
on the African Women in Cinema Blog:


Delphine Kabore: Nos Voisins (Our neighbors)
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/10/delphine-kabore-nos-voisins-our.html

Leyla Bouzid: A tale of love and desire
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/09/a-tale-of-love-desire-leyla-bouzid-falila-gbadamassi.html

Anissa Daoud: Le bain (The bath)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/04/vues-dafrique-anissa-daoud-le-bain-bath.html

Aicha Macky: Zinder
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/04/aicha-macky-zinder.html

Sofia Alaoui, laureate: «Qu'importe si les bêtes meurent» |  "So What if the Goats Die"
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/03/cesar-2021-sofia-alaoui-laureate-le.html

Josza Anjembe: Baltringe
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/05/recent-films-josza-anjembe-baltringue.html

Marie Clémentine Dusabejambo: Icyasha (Etiquette)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/02/fespaco-2019-icyasha-etiquette-byde.html

Mukanya, Siza Mukwedini, Zimbabwe
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2018/08/iiff-2018-international-images-film_50.html

A conversation with Twiggy Matiwana | Une conversation avec Twiggy Matiwana - South Africa | Afrique du Sud
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2017/05/a-conversation-with-twiggy-matiwana-une.html

When Alice Diop takes us "towards masculine tenderness" | Quand Alice Diop nous entraîne "vers la tendresse" au masculin
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2016/03/when-alice-diop-takes-us-towards.html

Alice Diop: "It is up to us to work on our own complexes"
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2011/12/alice-diop-it-is-up-to-us-to-work-on.html

See also:
Gendered representations of Africans in the French Hexagon: An Analysis of La Noire de... by Ousmane Sembene and Med Hondo's Soleil O
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2009/05/gendered-representations-of-africans.html
 

17 December 2021

Vanessa Fernandes: Focus on Guinean Film - Utopia UK Portuguese Film Festival 2021

 Vanessa Fernandes: Focus on Guinean Film
Utopia UK Portuguese Film Festival 2021
The Female Gaze in 12 Films
19 December 2021 15h00 (GMT)

Events available to UK audiences
Q&A with the filmmaker
Tradition and Imagination - Tradição e Imaginação
2018, 4’32”
A film narrating memories of a past, of slavery in Beni.

Her Destiny - Si Destino

2015, 21’37”
After losing her mother and sister to an accident in Guiné Bissau, Fatinha moves to Portugal with her father, Abdhula. He decides to remarry. The issue of the “purification”, (female genital mutilation) of Fatinha, now eleven, comes up when Fatumata, the bride’s grandmother, enters their lives. This begins to rock Fatinha’s world, especially in her dreams, "a kind of rêverie" where she walks in a mystic forest and confronts her fears of a situation she doesn’t even understand, but can certainly feel. The film addresses the issue of family decision in the face of tradition even when far away from home.

Bio

Vanessa Fernandes is a filmmaker and multidisciplinary artist from Guinéa-Bissau
 

16 December 2021

African Women in Cinema: Stories of Mothers

African Women in Cinema: Stories of Mothers
 
On the timeline of women's lives are the myriad stories of the hope of childbirth, the fear of it not happening, societal expectations of motherhood, the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, memories of mothers, stories of aging and caregiving. Of these experiences, African women in cinema weave stories of mothers--many of them, their own.  
 
Following is a selection of cinematic stories of mothers by African women in screen culture. Reworked as part II of the article, African women, screen culture and practices of Motherwork
(This article will be updated to include current works):

In the fictional semi-autobiographical film, The Body Beautiful (1991), Nigerian-British Ngozi Onwurah casts her real-life mother, Madge, a white woman, in a multilayered story at the intersection of race--focusing on her bi-raciality, and the notion of beauty and the body--using her mother's experience with the crippling effects of arthritis, and her bout with breast cancer and the subsequent mastectomy. She hauntingly illustrates the societal privileging of the youthful, "perfect" body. It is especially moving to observe Ngozi Onwurah's mother, Madge, as the survivor of breast cancer, willingly present her body as text for the story, as her daughter explores this complex and remarkable phenomenon.

While narrating in voice-off in Les Enfants du Blanc (2000), Sarah Bouyain recalls her childhood summer vacations in Burkina Faso, with her paternal grandmother, Jeanne Bouyain. She also remembers her great grandmother Diouldé Boly who refused to speak in French because it brought back painful memories. These remembrances form the basis of her family-history meetings with her grandmother, visualized in the documentary. Her recollections are framed in a sequence of questions to which her grandmother responds in detail, sometimes elaborated by elements of Sarah’s research, which the latter narrates in voice-off. The internal journeys with her grandmother also entail voyages through the family photo albums, chats together during daily chores. Her grandmother’s remembrances uncover a little known phenomenon of French history of which Jeanne’s mother was directly concerned: the abduction and forced concubinage by French colonials of African women. The other thread to the story is the forced placement of the mixed-race children of these unions, often against the will of their families, into orphanages; Sarah Bouyain’s grandmother, who later was able to rejoin her mother, recalls this sad period in her life as her granddaughter looks on mournfully. Sarah, filmmaker, researcher, family historian, is also witness, inscribed into this aching multi-layered history of her family. Though Sarah Bouyain attempted to distance herself from any similarities to the protagonist’s story in the fiction film, Notre étrangère | The Place in Between (2010)--in real life Sarah Bouyain's mother is white European and her father is African, and her search is of a very different nature--there are subtle aspects that give hints of an autobiographical consciousness: the recurrent themes of belonging, language and place. Elements of departure and return, the leitmotif of the film, are structured in parallel stories. Amy, who has not had contact with her mother since she was an infant, leaves France for Burkina Faso to find her. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that she had left home years before en route to France, in search of her daughter. The separation of mother/othermother(s) and daughter/otherdaughter(s) is another powerful thread that runs through the film.

Claude Haffner focuses most of the story in Noire ici, Blanche là-basFootprints of My Other (2012) on her second return voyage to the land of her birth. During her initial visit she was accompanied by her mother. She describes this visit as experiencing the reality of the Congo as she hid behind her mother. The second journey, which was planned around the shooting of the documentary, was made alone; having been “liberated”, she was searching for her own place among her Congolese family. In the film she talks about reconciling with her mother having better understood where she comes from, beginning to respect her experiences, becoming closer to her. Reconciliation of course implies that there were issues that had to be resolved. She explains what prevented reconciliation before the experience with making the film: I felt secondary to my mother’s concerns about her family in the Congo. I thought she spent too much time dealing with them and not enough on us. I suffered from her "absence." With age, one finally understands the complexity of life, and if one follows the path of wisdom, one is able to forgive. Moreover, she realized that in order to tell the complexities of this story she would have to enter into it. Hence, her autobiographical consciousness unveiled during the filmmaking process. She explains: “The film should redefine itself as the shooting unfolds in the same way that the filmmaker redefines herself in relation to her initial idea and to her subject. This is evident in the fact that in 2004 I could not foresee that I would be expecting a child after having filmed in the Congo, and that I would actually include myself, while pregnant, during the scenes in Alsace. Somehow, the film helped me to define my identity and my place between Europe and Africa and to become aware of the richness that I possess to have come from a double culture or perhaps I should say, multiple.” (African Women in Cinema Blog)

A subtext of the two fiction films, Sous la clarté de la lune and Pour la nuit, is death and separation from the African mother. At the beginning of Isabelle Boni-Claverie's film Pour la nuit (For the Night, 2004), the young woman Muriel, raised by her European father and African mother in France, buries her mother; it is at the funeral that her shame of her mother’s African-ness, her mother’s speech, her voice, surfaces. Both father and daughter reveal to each other for the first time, at the site of the African woman’s reposed body, the tensions that surrounded their relationship to her African-ness. The father accuses the daughter of being ashamed of her mother because she was African; the daughter accuses the father of not really being interested in understanding his wife, knowing her deeply, knowing who she was. Though this beginning is only a brief part of the story in this fiction short, it provides the context for the emotional drama that ensues as Muriel seeks to free herself. In Sous la clarté de la lune (Under the Moonlight, 2004) by Apolline Traoré from Burkina Faso, young Martine has become someone very different, having being raised in Europe by her European father, rather than in Africa by her African mother. The uprooted Martine, returns to Africa, discovering her African roots through her mother. And yet, she does not realize the woman’s relationship to her, as she was kidnapped by her father while still a baby, a trauma of which her mother suffered a double loss, her daughter and her voice, as she was rendered mute. Upon Martine's brief return the mother recovers her voice and rediscovers her daughter, only to lose her again to death.

In Orphanage of Mygoma (2008), commissioned by Aljazeera, Taghreed Elsanhouri sets out to Sudan to make a film about the children brought to the Mygoma Orphanage in Karthoum after being abandoned by their unwed mothers. She encounters baby Abdelsamih, blind, having lost his eyes to cancer as a baby, and incorporates the emotional journey of growing close to him while making the film. From this experience she evolved from exploring filmmaker to ultimately, an engaging mother, he becomes her son.

Aïcha Elhadj Macky was only five years old when her mother died after childbirth. It is this trauma that Aïcha, who is married, still without children, reconstructs in L'arbre sans fruit | The Fruitless Tree (2016) about infertility and its disorder. She starts with childbirth: the calm, the esteemed advice of the midwife, the fatigue of the mother, the arrival of the child. Then a spoken letter that refers back to it: "Dear Mother, behind the camera, I tremble throughout my body"; and before concluding: "In my sleepless nights, your spirit guides my steps."

In Children of the Mountain (2016) by Priscilla Yawa Anany a woman who gives birth to a deformed and sickly child. Because she’s criticized and blamed for her child’s conditions, she becomes determined to do everything in her power to find a cure for him. When all fails and she becomes hopeless, she’s pushed to getting rid of her child. (From film description)

Françoise Ellong's W.A.K.A - « pour son fils elle est prête à tout… » | “for her son she is ready for anything” (2013) reveals the unraveling world of Mathilde/Maryline, a single mother desperate to care for her child. Françoise has this to say about the film: "The theme of the film was the result of a casual conversation that I had when dining with friends. During the discussion, I hear: "... in any case she is not a good mother." Is there a manual somewhere that follows to the letter what automatically makes one a good mother or not? Or does it depend on each person’s experience? The idea of the film resulted from this. Prostitution is a pretext in the film to talk about the journey and struggle of a woman—both as a woman and as a mother." (African Women in Cinema Blog)

Moroccan Maryam Touzani's Adam (2019) centers on the inner experiences of Abla and Samia whose interior journeys bring them together as they confront the myriad experiences of motherhood. Abla, a widow with little means, caring for her young daughter, brings into her household Samia, pregnant and unmarried, in a society that condemns the situation in which she finds herself.

The eponymous character of the film Sofia (2018) by Meryem Benm'Barek, is also pregnant in a Moroccan society that criminalizes motherhood outside of marriage. She is encircled in a world of women: mother, aunt, cousin, who work together to protect her and also the honour of women.

Cecile Mulombe Mbombe—cinematographer, and Pauline Mulombe—filmmaker, two sisters, talk about their lives, their experiences, and the film, Tout le monde a des raisons d'en vouloir à sa mère (Everyone has Reasons to be Angry with her Mother) 2010, which they made together. Pauline has this to say about the film: The protagonists, the daughters...respect their cultural heritage but they want to live their lives as they see fit. The film is located principally within the context of tolerance, indeed acceptance, by their mother, of their multi-culturalism and their reality. The youngest wants to enjoy herself and grow and develop by making the most of European social and cultural life. The middle daughter wants to utilize all of the possibilities available to resolve her problems, even if it means doing things that are unthinkable in her culture of origin, such as taking the birth control pill when still an adolescent. The oldest, even if she does not openly show her homosexuality, knows that she is 100% gay. (African Women in Cinema Blog)

Lilya, 16, remembers her mother Dalila Ennadre, who died on 14 May 2020 after a long battle with cancer: While traveling, she called me several times a day and when she came back from a film shoot, she immediately resumed her role as mom and was happy to find the rhythm of the house, in particular to return to family meals at the table together: we discussed a lot, I told her about my day, she listened to me, advised me, and afterwards, she told me about her work and we also talked about it. It is also true that she was completed engrossed in her work like many filmmakers, in her daily life, her meal breaks and her conversations with her loved ones. (Source: leseco.ma)
 
During a tribute to Sarah Maldoror upon her passing in April 2020, Henda Ducados had this to say about her mother:
…It is also important to talk about Sarah as a woman, and talk about this great love story that she had with our father which led to the two projects Sambizanga and Mongambee…her view about feminism, about being a single mother, female head of household, taking care of two daughters and making sure that the collectivity was very important. Not looking at the individual but at the collective…

15 December 2021

African Women in Cinema: Stories of Home and Homeland

African Women in Cinema:
Stories of Home and Homeland

"I say home is where my mother is"--Akuol Garang de Mabior
 
The notion of home for many transnational African women of the screen is fluid or situational, an experience that is best described by James Baldwin, the renowned expatriate writer: “you take your home with you. You’d better. Otherwise you're homeless”. Or still, Josephine Baker, who was the embodiment of this duality, and was perhaps one of the first transnational Africana women of international stature. Embracing her two countries, she describes it in this way: “J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris (I have two loves, my country and Paris).”

Notes to continue...

Akuol de Mbior: Home is where my mother is
What does it mean to be from a place I have never called home? So many young South Sudanese people were born and raised outside of the country and yet, whenever there is the tiniest shimmer of hope, people return.
 
Theresa Traoré Dahlberg: My two homelands
I enjoyed having two homes in different countries [Sweden and Burkina Faso], and it helped me to get a greater understanding and perspective of different cultures and values. 
 
Hachimiya Ahamada: Homeland Dreams of Comores
These three films, [Feu leur rêve, The Ylang Ylang Residence and Ashes of Dreams] relate the story of the house in the homeland: the ideal home that takes time to build or to be completed. Our parents thought at first it would be the 'home to settle in' and then over time it became the 'vacation home' and as time passed it became the 'grave house' because the descendants return less and some do not come at all. To build one’s home is to leave one’s mark in the native village in which one has been long absent. As a trilogy these three films allowed me to explore the fate of these uninhabited houses waiting for their owners who have remained in France or elsewhere.

Feu leur rêve, my graduation film, written in a poetic way, recounts a fantasy Comoros while still in Dunkerque. The Ylang Ylang Residence, my first short fiction film, relates how the islanders living in houses made of straw or sheet metal, are not able to benefit from the permanent structures of the absent migrants. L’Ivresse d’une Oasis closes the chapter of my exploration of the subject of the house, and going further by traveling on all four islands of the Comoros archipelago in search of its Comorian identity.

Ivresse d’une Oasis relates the unfulfilled need of the islanders to achieve their dreams. They leave in order to have it better when they return, always with the idea of building the concrete house. But the difficulty in achieving this dream is that the perfect home is merely a mirage. I translate the film in English as Ashes of Dreams. Dreams that in the end send the islanders in transit, somewhere, either to France or to Mayotte and Reunion. And these constructed foundations continue to wait...
Ashes of dreams is a film written in first person singular and then first person plural. I wanted to go back to the Grande Comore, to the family, without the label of 'I’ve come from...' to measure the temperature of the family bond. But time creates a fracture even with those with which there are blood ties. I remember a comment by someone who said 'I come back in order not to stay'. It's a rather difficult acknowledgement to make. Then also in this film, I wanted to break the image of the idyllic island of the Comoros by meeting the residents of the other islands in order to get the secrets of the real Comoros. I found a lead: Comorian migration is constantly in motion, it has always been throughout its history. By economic migration, many of the islanders dream of leaving their villages in order to have it better when they return. From the island of Anjouan, some go some 70 km in order to reach Mayotte...the islanders crossed the sea by a kwassa-kwassa, a fishing boat. The death toll continues to increase as a result of this crossing. Thousands of people have died in silence. The sea has become their tomb in the place of a house.


Jacqueline Nsiah: No Place Like Home
In “No Place Like Home” we talk to the first generation from various parts of Africa and ask why they left and why they go to an Afro Shop, a term that is coined in the new world, there's no place called Afro Shop on the continent, which in itself is very interesting. I was very interested in the sensory experience when entering an Afro Shop, what do you feel, smell or taste when you enter the Afro Shop? Does it remind you of home? What is home? And where is home? “No Place Like Home” and “Returning from exile” are absolutely linked. To me “No Place Like Home” is the journey and “Returning from exile” is the arrival.

Ndèye Marame Guèye: An African Woman on the Seine
Woman speaking to Ndèye Marame Guèye: “Someone like me who was born in France but is of foreign origins, it is difficult to find one’s home, one’s space. For us when in France “my country” is my ancestral homeland. But when I am in this homeland, “my country” is France.”

Ndèye Marame Guèye: “And who are you?”

Woman: “Good question, I’m still searching.”

14 December 2021

African Women in Cinema Addressing Mental Health in Africa and the Diaspora

African Women in Cinema Addressing Mental Health in Africa and the Diaspora

 
A selection of articles on the African Women in Cinema Blog regarding African women addressing mental health issues:
 
#postpartum #depression
Nora Awolowo: Baby Blues
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/10/nora-awolowo-baby-blues.html

#anxiety
Aisha Jama Neefso: Breathe
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/08/recent-films-aisha-jama-neefso-breathe.html

#Alzheimers
Karima Saidi: Dans la mason | A Way Home
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/04/artetv-karima-saidi-dans-la-maison-way.html

#autism
Noelle Kenmoe: Deux avril
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/01/raising-awareness-noelle-kenmoes-deux.html

#schizophrenia
Yveline Nathalie Pontalier : Le marechalat du roi-Dieu | The Marshal of the God-king
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2013/02/fespaco-2013-yveline-nathalie-pontalier.html

#mentalillness

Khady Sylla : Une fenetre ouverte | An open window
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2012/09/women-and-intangible-cultural-heritage.html
Maïmouna Ndiaye: Le fou, le génie et le sage (The crazy, the genius, the sage)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/02/fespaco-2019-le-fou-le-genie-et-le-sage.html
Hawa Aliou Ndiaye : Kuma!
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/02/festival-films-femmes-afrique-2020-hawa.html
Mai Mustafa Ekhou: It's not over yet
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/05/recent-films-mai-mustafa-ekhou-its-not.html

#bipolar
Ledet Muleta: Chula
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2016/07/producer-ledet-muleta-launches.html

 

12 December 2021

Positioning France within afro-descendant women's cultural and cinematic imaginaries and identities

 Positioning France within afro-descendant women's cultural and cinematic imaginaries and identities
Reflections by Beti Ellerson

Notes continuing...
 
France has been a site of cultural and cinematic imaginaries for a generation of African women who have and continue to navigate its capital Paris and other areas of the Hexagon. With its rich cinema culture and history, it has been fertile ground for African women with an interest in filmmaking and screen culture production and activism as early as the 1950s and 1960s. A hub within which African women from Francophone regions and beyond may gather to network, study, edit, and research, many who sojourn to the country returning to their place of origin, while others make it their home, to settle, live and work. With such a strong presence of women who reside or circulate in France, it is not surprising that there is a corresponding level of recent activities and events that is emerging to meet their needs. Some of the cinematic gatherings with a focus on African women and/or women of the South dating back to the 1990s include the Women's International Film Festival at Creteil and Cannes. Continuing in this tradition are gatherings at landmark festivals such as Festival des films d'Afrique en pays d'Apt, as well as Francophone festivals in neighboring Switzerland, such as FIFF Festival International du Film de Fribourg. Moreover, the International Colloquium "Francophone African Women Filmmakers: 40 years of cinema (1972-2012)" held in Paris in November 2012 highlighted contributions of afro-descendant women in France, Africa and internationally. The proliferation of programming that includes afro-descendant women is no doubt a reflection of the universal call for multiculturalism and gender parity and a European imperative to focus on inclusion and diversity within its own population and borders.

The iconic Afrique sur Seine (Africa on the Seine), directed in 1955 by Paulin Soumanou Vieyra and his colleagues (Robert Caristan, Jacques Mélo Kane, Mamadou Sarr) while in film school in Paris, is a seminal work in the history of African cinema production. As colonial subjects of French West Africa, these African students migrated to France to study; and because they were not permitted to film in, at the time, French Colonial Africa, they constructed an Africa in Paris posing the question as a point of departure for the film: Is Africa in Africa, on the banks of the Seine, or in the Latin Quarter?

Revisited by the “grandchildren” of Afrique sur Seine more than sixty years later, the film continues to be relevant to a third generation of African filmmakers, which is indicative of the ubiquitous flow, exchange and influences inherent in the fluidity and circulation of peoples, ideas, and experiences within the global African world. And perhaps more significantly, it reveals the indelible impact on African cinematic discourse, of these initial attitudes regarding identity. For her graduation film, Une Africaine sur Seine (An African woman on the Seine), Senegalese Ndèye Marame Guèye revisits Afrique sur Seine, posing many of the same questions about home, place, location and subjectivity explored two generations before; her concluding remarks in the film:  Beautiful images will have to be born again in the Sahara, envisioned by the grandchildren of [Paulin Soumanou Vieyra] from an imaginary born of the rivers of Africa, and not of the waters of the Seine”.

And yet, as the exchange of ideas, visions, dialogue and knowledge increasingly globalizes, Ndèye Marame Guèye’s pronouncement is perhaps more symbolic than an actual prognosis for future generations of African makers. That she utters these words in a student film made in Paris, is indicative of the earlier practice that persist in the present: of student migration to the West to study and later settle to live and work, which is often due to the lack of film training in Africa as a whole, although there are schools and institutes that are steadily emerging throughout the continent. However, most return to their home countries after their studies, making important contributions to local, regional and continental cinema cultures. Conversely, there is a generation of first-gens who were born in the host country of their immigrant parents, which they call home, or the bi-racial and/or bi-cultural women whose parents met and settled in or returned to the country of one of the parents; or in still another “journey of identity”, who acquired their global hybrid identity as “third-culture individuals” during a childhood with expatriate parents who worked as professionals in host countries—some remaining outside of Africa, and others returning to the continent.

Hence, contemporary films by afro-descendant women frame their characters within an environment that contextualizes the current realities of present-day French society especially as it relates to identity, inclusion and belonging. However, these works, most of which are documentary films though the number of fiction films are growing, underscore the vexed realities of "other" French identities in the current French social and political landscape, in which their afro-descendant identities must be negotiated and are in perpetual flux.
 
A selection of articles on the African Women in Cinema Blog that frame contemporary afro-descendant women, identity and positionality in France

Afropolitaine webserie: 100% afro
Mame-Fatou Niang's and Kaytie Nielsen: Mariannes noires
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2018/12/tv5monde-mariannes-noires-mame-fatou.html

Josza Anjembe: Le bleu blanc rouge de mes cheveux (The blue white red of my hair) | French
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2018/06/mis-me-binga-2018-josza-anjembe-le-bleu.html

Amandine Gay: To be a black woman in France has its specific issues

Isabelle Boni-Claverie: Trop noire pour être française

Claude Haffner: Footprints of my other
http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2012/03/claude-haffner-black-here-white-there.html

Pascale Obolo: The Invisible Woman
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2010/07/pascale-obolo-visible-woman.html

Gendered representations of Africans in the French Hexagon
 

10 December 2021

Behind the camera, in the frame: African Women's Autobiographical Imaginaries

Behind the camera, in the frame: African Women's Autobiographical Imaginaries

 
“You want to do a story on Zanele Muholi? Where is she in this? You do a story on me, where will I be? Will I be another subject standing in front of the camera and tell my story completely?...What will be my position?

The above quote highlights the urgency of the African woman practitioner to be the agent of her own story. Hence, for her, “history, historical agency, and autobiographical consciousness have become significant and signifying components of identity, artistic production, and social agency.” She is an “empirical subject” who exists separate from and prior to her films.

Hamid Naficy describes autobiography as a dominant motif in “accented films” where self-reflexive strategies that inscribe the filmmaker are also employed. Self-inscription is evident in many of the works of African women filmmakers in which identity and belonging are prevailing themes. Hence, as Naficy notes as well, these films inscribe the filmmakers both authorially and autobiographically as well as diegetically, and occasionally the character becomes the alter ego of the filmmaker.

The themes of the African woman maker/protagonist are multiple and diverse. The discussion that follows draws from a selection of themes—ranging from practices of beauty, mental illness, the complexities of lesbian identity, the parent-child relationship, in search of family histories, questions of belonging, duty of memory—in order to highlight some of the strategies of self-inscription that the filmmakers employ.

South African visual activist Zanele Muholi, affirms her subject positioning, reclaiming the right to tell her own story, taking proprietorship of her images and encouraging other black South African lesbians and Africans as a whole to do so as well. Zanele Muholi co-produced Difficult Love (2010) with Peter Goldsmid under the condition that she has certain rights and the ownership of her story in the documentary. Interwoven into a composite of her visual works with interviews of her, her friends and colleagues, the film relates her experiences and the complexities of her life: as lesbian, family person and as participant in her society.

Zulfah Otto-Sallies, also from South Africa, exclaims: “I don’t understand who that 15 year old who sleeps in my house is!” She uses her camera as the means to find out. In Through the Eyes of My Daughter (2004) she focuses the lenses on her family, zooming into their world in the Bo-Kaap community of South Africa for an entire year. The cross-generational response to contemporary society is the thread running through the film, sometimes showing differing perspectives regarding the realities that the current generation confronts. The evolving story contrasts the apartheid-generation of Zulfah with teen-ager Muneera’s experiences in a democratic South Africa. In full view of the camera, one has a glimpse of the strong bond of the mother-daughter relationship. Zulfah Otto-Sallies invites the viewer into their world with all of the unpredictability that comes as a result. Used to having control of her subject, she discovered the dilemma of inscribing her family into her film: “It’s not easy being in your own film. You can’t structure it, you can’t control it. Things happen and it’s a letting go process. It’s not just a documentary that other people watch; it’s also a document for my family.” Hence Through the Eyes of My Daughter plays the dual role of a story to share with the public and a visual biography for the family to better understand their own lives.
 
Mame Woury Thioubou gazes openly into the mirror. Face to face with her image she compares it to the beauty and historic elegance of the women of St. Louis, Senegal, which had always been her idea of feminine beauty. Her film Face à Face, Femmes et beauté à Saint-Louis (Face to Face, Women and Beauty in St. Louis, 2009) provides a cross-generational perspective of notions of beauty past and present. In her investigation of the societal practices as it relates to beauty she poses the questions: Why do women have to resort to artifices to feel beautiful? And in so doing, to what need are they submitting?
 
Employing the camera as a strategy of self-reflection, Aicha Thiam’s Papa (2006), is structured around memories of presence and absence. Her face fills the frame as she addresses her recently deceased father in voice-off narration. The poem-film is a journey between two worlds. It is a film-letter of her love, a space where she could communicate directly to her father and ultimately find relief from the loss of his physical presence. Paradoxically, to face the camera was an act of courage for Aicha Thiam, and yet, in that moment, there was a natural sense of being able to share her feelings in an intimate way on the screen—a cathartic instance at the same time an artistic fulfilment.

Similarly, Annette Kouamba Matondo’s catharsis evolved during the filming of her portrait of artist Sylvie Diclo Pomos. Recalling the case of the “Beach” disappearances, the duty of memory was at the same time a means to liberate her from her ghosts. She begins On n’oublie pas on pardonne (One does not forget one forgives, 2010) by reading out loud her intentions for making the film as Sylvie Diclo Pomos listens: to recall the case of the “Beach” disappearances in order to remember, because too often there is a tendency to forget. Sylvie Diclo Pomo’s play “Janus’s Madness” is the point of departure of the story and it is through her work and experiences that the film unfolds. While it was initially planned to be a portrait of Sylvie the artist, during the shooting of the film Annette Kouamba Matondo began to ask herself questions. Hence, this self-interrogation caused a momentous shift in the story, which lead to her ability to find answers at the film’s conclusion. Unexpectedly, during the shooting, not able to control her emotions, she begins to cry; at that moment she realizes that she had not yet mourned her sister’s death. Though she thought that she had forgotten, the past began to resurface inside of her. Like many other filmmakers dealing with those intimate moments, there was hesitation about including this private part of her life, and yet: “The only therapy that remains is dialogue, sharing those fears, those problems. I think that it is a first step of a long therapy, and I am on the right path to healing. My narrative at the start of each sequence is a travel diary, in order to seize those intense moments and share them with everyone.”

Khady Sylla’s camera becomes an open window, as self-inscription has been a critical way to reveal parts of her personality through her films. Une fenêtre ouverte (An open window, 2005) is a space that she tried to open for Aminta Ngomgui, the protagonist of the story, for herself, and for the public, on the world of mental illness. Her camera is also a mirror into which she gazes directly as she addresses the viewers, interrogating their own sense of sanity, she states: "You look at yourself in a broken mirror. You see pieces of your face. Your face is crumbling. And whoever looks at you in the broken mirror, sees pieces of images of your face. Which of you will come to reconstruct the puzzle? Are you not, perhaps, on the same side of the mirror?” She continues the monologue with the disquieting admission of her own mental illness. However, it is through Aminta Ngomgui’s madness that she finds her window to the world. Khady Sylla’s camera is also cathartic. She elaborates this therapeutic element in an interview with Françoise Pfaff: “By looking at another, I wanted to look at myself, but not too directly. To look at oneself, alone, is not very interesting. But if one does so through another, it is there, where perhaps something can be found about oneself. Who am I? Who is the other? Between these two spaces, there is something to be found…rather than looking solely at my insanity, I wanted to analyze it through the madness of someone else in order to show that one shares a great deal of experiences with others.”

Taghreed Elsanhouri does not claim her parents’ exilic status, as she was only a young child when the family left Sudan for the United Kingdom; yet her historical agency and autobiographical consciousness is located in her place of her birth. In her films she is situated as an empirical subject, moving incrementally to the point where she claims a place for herself within the historical boundaries of Sudan. All About Darfur (2005), Orphanage of Mygoma (2008) and Our Beloved Sudan (2011) reveal her self-inscribing positionality as a means to explore the complex nature of her subject. In the same way it is a means to rediscover her country, and in the case of Orphanage of Mygoma, a life-changing journey. Commissioned by Aljazeera, Taghreed Elsanhouri set out to Sudan to make a film about the children brought to the Mygoma Orphanage in Karthoum after being abandoned by their unwed mothers. She encounters baby Abdelsamih and incorporates the emotional journey of growing close to him while making the film. From this experience she evolved from exploring filmmaker to ultimately, an engaging mother, he becomes her son.

Journeys of identity, to cite Hamid Naficy, are omnipresent in the works of Sarah Bouyain. Inside both films, the documentary Les Enfants du blanc (Children of the White Man, 2000) and the fiction feature, The Place in Between (2010) she teases out her bi-racial and bi-cultural identities that are an intricate part of her personal and historical experiences. In the former, Sarah Bouyain herself returns to Burkina Faso to document her family history. The latter is a reflection on identity, loss and in-between-ness. It is about the duality and either/or-ness that she is resigned to work through, the irreconcilability of an exilic consciousness: “The feeling of exile is an inevitable consequence of being bi-racial. Whatever I do, I cannot be in my two countries at the same time.”

While narrating in voice-off in Les Enfants du Blanc, Sarah Bouyain recalls her childhood summer vacations in Burkina Faso, with her paternal grandmother, Jeanne Bouyain. She also remembers her great grandmother Diouldé Boly who refused to speak in French because it brought back painful memories. These remembrances form the basis of her family-history meetings with her grandmother, visualized in the documentary. Her recollections are framed in a sequence of questions to which her grandmother responds in detail, sometimes elaborated by elements of Sarah’s research, which the latter narrates in voice-off. The internal journeys with her grandmother also entail voyages through the family photo albums, chats together during daily chores. Her grandmother’s remembrances uncover a little known phenomenon of French history of which Jeanne’s mother was directly concerned: the abduction and forced concubinage by French colonials of African women. The other thread to the story is the forced placement of the mixed-race children of these unions, often against the will of their families, into orphanages; Sarah Bouyain’s grandmother, who later was able to rejoin her mother, recalls this sad period in her life as her granddaughter looks on mournfully. Sarah, filmmaker, researcher, family historian, is also witness, inscribed into this aching multi-layered history of her family.

Though Sarah Bouyain attempted to distance herself from any similarities to the protagonist’s story in The Place in Between there are subtle aspects that give hints of an autobiographical consciousness: the recurrent themes of belonging, language and place. Elements of departure and return, the leitmotif of the film, are structured in parallel stories. Amy, who has not had contact with her mother since she was an enfant, leaves France for Burkina Faso to find her. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that she had left home years before en route to France, in search of her daughter. The separation of mothers and daughters is another powerful thread that runs through the film.
 
The title of the original French version Notre Étrangère, “our foreigner”, has a very different meaning than the English title The Place in Between. And yet they both reflect the parallel stories that command the film. Amy and her mother Miriam are both "in a place between two" in the respective countries where they are located, and at the same time, both are foreigners in these places. But why "our" foreigner, the nickname that her African family called her? In Africa at the same time different, Amy belongs to the family, to Africa; hence, through the film the filmmaker, Sarah Bouyain is able to reconcile with the two countries of which she is a part.

Similarly, in La Souffrance est une école de sagesse | Suffering is a School of Wisdom (2010) Astrid Ariane Atodji set out to resolve the increasingly nagging questions of belonging, in a voyage from Cameroon to Benin, the land of her father, where she had never been. Questions of identity began to surface in her during an interview when she was referred to as "the Cameroonian of Beninese origin." Born of a Cameroonian mother, she never doubted her Cameroonian-ness. However, the question of identity, of belonging, started to manifest itself, an uneasiness gradually developing: “I wanted answers to these questions that I asked myself and to which my father did not satisfactorily give me answers.” 

The film is structured as a road trip on various means of transport: airplane, car, bus, bush taxi, on the back of a motor scooter, by foot. New technologies facilitate the voyage, notably the cell phone. In the voice-off narration she talks to her father, asking him questions about his past, which are reflections of her thoughts as she travels from place to place to find hints of where her Beninese family are located. Language barriers encumber the endeavor, which is ultimately overcome by the many fellow travelers who facilitate as translators. Though ultimately, communication in the most intimate encounters with the newfound family is transmitted simply by emotion. Hence, the desire to communicate with each other supersedes the barrier of language. Similarly, Sarah Bouyain inserts the language of compassion in the forceful moments when there is incomprehension between the two languages.

In the same way that Annette Kouamba Matondo grappled with the decision to share private moments, Astrid Ariane Atodji also chose to do so as a means to unravel the complexities of a family history that had begun to consume her: “making a film was not easy because it was about me personally; an intimacy that one wishes to preserve; but this need imposed itself on me to the point of being vital. It was a psychological and emotional pain that I wanted to share in order to heal.” Astrid inscribes these very intense emotional experiences of her journey to her father’s homeland by showing her own responses to the information that she receives. She cries, she meditates, and during one powerful moment, she appears to almost faint when learning the details of family members. She lays her emotions out for all to see, as she reacts to the experiences during her journey of self-discovery to her father’s homeland.

Claude Haffner focuses most of the story in Footprints of My Other (2012) on her second return voyage to the land of her birth. During her initial visit she was accompanied by her mother, which she describes as having experienced the reality of the Congo as she hid behind her. The second journey, which was planned around the shooting of the documentary, was made alone; having been “liberated”, she was searching for her own place among her Congolese family. However, this was not the story that she had initially set out to tell, but rather of a more politically focused theme regarding the region of the Congo where her family lived, and how they were affected by it. Nonetheless, she realized that in order to tell the complexities of this story she would have to enter into it. Hence, her autobiographical consciousness unveiled during the filmmaking process. She explains:

“The film should redefine itself as the shooting unfolds in the same way that the filmmaker redefines herself in relation to her initial idea and to her subject. This is evident in the fact that in 2004 I could not foresee that I would be expecting a child after having filmed in the Congo, and that I would actually include myself, while pregnant, during the scenes in Alsace. Somehow, the film helped me to define my identity and my place between Europe and Africa and to become aware of the richness that I possess to have come from a double culture or perhaps I should say, multiple.”

The filmmaker/participant duality is evident in her desire to be at the same time auteur and protagonist of the history that she mines. Hence the subjective strategies of many of these stories emerge from a mode of autobiographical practice, which negotiate reflection, questioning and memory through acts of self-inscription, even if it entails succumbing to long-held resistance to divulging private, intimate moments of emotional expression or family histories.

Excerpted from the article: Black Camera: On-screen Narratives, Off-screen Lives: African Women Inscribing the Self (Behind the camera, in the frame: African Women's Autobiographical Imaginaries) by Beti Ellerson (Spring 2018)

 
A selection of articles on the African Women in Cinema Blog about African women's autobiographical stories:

Rim Temimi: Manco Moro
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/11/rim-temimi-manco-moro.html

Nesrine el Zayat: On the Fence
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/10/nesrine-el-zayat-on-the-fence.html

Laura Sousa: Fin | End
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/10/laura-sousa-fin-end.html

Karima Saidi: Dans la Maison | A Way Home
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/04/artetv-karima-saidi-dans-la-maison-way.html

Lina Soualem: Leur Algérie
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2021/04/vues-dafrique-2021-lina-soualem-leur.html

Ines Johnson Spain: Becoming Black
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/12/ines-johnson-spain-becoming-black.html

Tamara Mariam Dawit: Finding Sally
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/08/recent-films-tamara-mariam-dawit.html

Matamba Kombila: Mundele n: blanche, étrangère - white, foreigner
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/07/matamba-kombila-mundele-n-blanche.html

Eliane Tekou Donchi : La main interdite
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/02/festival-films-femmes-afrique-2020_11.html

Aline Angelo Milla & Soraya Milla: Afropolitaine, la websérie 100% afro french touch
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2020/12/afropolitaine-la-webserie-100-afro.html

Beryl Mgoko: In Search
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/10/ndiva-womens-film-festival-2019-in.html

Words of Frieda Ekotto, producer of the film Vibrancy of Silence: A Discussion With My Sisters
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2019/03/words-of-frieda-ekotto-producer-of-film.html

Aicha Macky: The Fruitless Tree | L’arbre sans fruit
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2017/03/luxor-african-film-festival-2017_2.html

Khady Sylla & Mariama Sylla Faye : Une Simple Parole | A Single Word
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/03/laff-2015-une-simple-parole-single-word.html

Astrid Ariane Atodji : La Souffrance est une école de sagesse | Suffering is a School of Wisdom
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/03/laff-2015-astrid-ariane-atodji-la.html

Fidel 2013: Perspectives of Black African Women - Images of Diversity and Equality Festival (Paris)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2013/09/fidel-2013-perspectives-of-black.html

Tapiwa Chipfupa: The Bag on my Back
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2013/08/aljazeera-witness-bag-on-my-back.html

Claude Haffner: Footprints of My Other (Black Here, White There)
https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2012/03/claude-haffner-black-here-white-there.html




 

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