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.


My photo
Director/Directrice, Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema | Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinéma


Search This Blog

24 June 2022

African Women's filmmaking and film activism as Womanist Work

African Women's filmmaking and film activism as Womanist Work
Notes ongoing by Beti Ellerson

Feminisant =  doing womanist work

Safi Faye: Je ne suis pas du tout féministe. Je suis féminisante. Je defends le cas des femmes… I am not at all feminist. I am womanistic, I defend the condition of women…

I interpret Safi Faye’s “feminisant”—from the French word “femme”, feminist, female”—as doing womanist work. Womanist, itself an expression coined by afro-descendant women in order to reconceptualize western feminism as defined by white women, which often does not reflect the realities of women of color. Hence this reflection is an exploration of womanist work in African women’s film practices.

Many concepts and terms in Africa women’s filmmaking practices and organizing principles embrace my idea of womanist work: in support of, in defense of the woman’s condition. As in the words of Anne-Laure Folly, framing African women’s experiences as “alternative discourse”.

Some examples include the names of women’s film organizations such as the Kenyan-based Udada, which means sisterhood in Kiswahili. Similarly, the women’s film festival Tazama, “to see”, is also from Kiswahili. In addition, the Cameroonian women’s film organization Mis me Binga literally means “The eyes of women” which I interpret in the context of cinematic discourse as “Women’s Gaze”. In still another example, Puk Nini, the title of Fanta Nacro’s 1996 film, she describes as “open your eyes, be vigilant”. Yewwu, Yewwi, the name of the Senegalese feminist organization, is defined in Wolof as, ‘to become aware in order to be liberated”.
Sarah Maldoror asserts that “African women must be everywhere. They must be in the images, behind the camera, in the editing room and involved in every stage of the making of a film. They must be the ones to talk about their problems”.

Annette Mbaye d'Erneville describes her objective as cultural producer in this way: "The goal is to allow women to express themselves, to be witnesses to their era and to reflect a realistic image of Africa in their own lives."

Assia Djebar’s used her camera as a means to envision the world of women: I thought to myself that the woman has been deprived of an image: She cannot be photographed, she does not even own her image. Since she is shut away, her gaze is on the inside. She can only look at the outside if she is veiled, and then, only with one eye. I decided then, that I would make of my camera this eye of the veiled woman.*
Filmmaker and producer Rama Thiaw** draws from Angela Davis’s thoughts to frame the Sabbar Artistiques initiative: I think that an artist must help the political, cultural, social and collective evolution of her/his society. I firmly believe in this famous quote by Angela Davis: 'the success or failure of a revolution can almost always be gauged by the degree to which the status of women is altered in a radical, progressive direction'.

Traditionally, Sabbars are women's meetings accompanied by traditional Senegalese drumming. Here, based on the same principle, Sabbar Artistiques are women's workshops built around reflection, emotion and transmission. The aim is to create an environment of critical inquiry between African women from the continent and Afro­ descendant and black women from around the world.

*Benesty-Sroka, Ghila, "La Langue et l'exil", La Parole métèque, 21 (1992): p. 24, cited in Littérature et cinéma en Afrique francophone: Ousmane Sembene et Assia Djebar by Sada Niang ed. (Paris: Harmattan, 1996). Translation by Beti Ellerson.
**Excerpted from an interview with Rama Thiaw by Laure Solé in

Following is a selection of articles from the African Women in Cinema Blog that reflect African women's filmmaking and film activism as womanist work. The selection is continuing…

African women in cinema in conversation at FIFF Festival International du Film de Fribourg

Beti Ellerson: ‘African Women in Cinema’ - Women’s Film Activism

22 June 2022

African Women in Cinema: Affective experiences of belonging, of inclusion: negotiating the emotions of heritage and identity

African Women in Cinema: Affective experiences of belonging, of inclusion: negotiating the emotions of heritage and identity*

Notes ongoing by Beti Ellerson

*(Drawn from the title, Emotion, Affective Practices, and the Past in the Present / by Laurajane Smith, Margaret Wetherell, Gary Campbell)

Following is a selection of articles from the African Women in Cinema Blog that addresses African women in cinema engaging the affective practices of belonging, inclusion, identity. The selection is continuing…

Katarama Gahigiri: Ethereality

Alice Diop: We | Nous

Raja Amari: She had a dream

Ines Johnson Spain: Becoming Black

Matamba Kombile: Mundele n blanche

Yvonne Orji: Mama I made it

Mariannes Noires: Mame-Fatou Niang, Kaytie Nielsen

Josza Anjembe: Le bleu blanc rouge de mes cheveux (The red white blue of my hair) | French

Alice Diop: Les Senegalaises et la Senegauloise

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

When Alice Diop takes us towards tenderness

Ghanaian-German Jacqueline Nsiah’s Sankofa

Sierra Leonean American Nadia Sasso: Am I too African to be American or too American to be African

Amelia Umuhire: Polyglot Webseries

Isabelle: Boni-Claverie: Trop noire pour etre francaise | Too Black to be French

Rina Jooste: Visualizing South Africa beyond the divide

Eliaichi Kimaro: Tracing her Tanzanian roots

Claude Haffner: Black here, white there

Conversation with white South African Lizelle Bisschoff

Eleonore Yameogo: Paris my paradise

Sarah Bouyain: Notre Etrangère

Shirikiana Aina: Through the door of no return

Akosua Adam Owusu’s Triple consciousness

Peres Owino talks about her documentary

Bridget Thompson: What shaped/shapes my eye

Pascale Obolo: The Visible Woman

Gendered representations of African in the French Hexagon

10 June 2022

Horria Saihi: Une femme algérienne. Au fil de la résistance, j'écris ton nom | An Algerian woman, throughout the resistance, I write my name

Horria Saihi: Une femme algérienne. Au fil de la résistance, j'écris ton nom | An Algerian woman, throughout the resistance, I write my name


Paru le 19 mai 2022

English translation soon

Un livre qui est à la fois un parcours de vie, un témoignage et un appel à la résistance, signé par une opposante de la première heure à toutes les formes d'oppression qui s'opposent à la démocratie en Algérie. « Femme, journaliste, réalisatrice et militante, actrice et témoin privilégiée, je choisis désormais d’écrire et d’apporter ma contribution à une histoire vivante en puisant dans nos luttes, notre résistance », écrit Horria Saïhi. « Je dis et décris l’arbitraire du pouvoir avec ses lots d’enlèvements, de séquestrations, de tortures, d’assignations à résidence, d’emprisonnements, de révoltes d’étudiants, de lycéens ou de paysans, la censure et l’interdit, la contestation, la solidarité, la montée de l’islamisme politique, la riposte pacifique ou armée, l’engagement des femmes. J’évoque mon pays avec mes mots, mes connaissances et mon engagement. Je le raconte tel que je l’ai perçu, tel que je l’ai ressenti au travers de mes rencontres avec Kateb Yacine, les ouvrières de Sidi Bel Abbès, les paysannes de Zrizer, mes camarades du PAGS, d’Ettahadi-Taffat, du MDS, des Patriotes, des Groupes de légitime défense, des militaires, des artificiers, des familles de victimes du terrorisme, des militantes républicaines, mes collègues de la télévision… » Pour redonner vie à ce passé tragique qu’elle fait défiler sous nos yeux des années de l’après-Indépendance à nos jours, Horria Saïhi s’est attachée à recueillir la parole de femmes et d’hommes qui ont comme elle vécu, subi, résisté ou fui tout ce que l’Algérie n’a pu ou su offrir à son peuple. Enseignant, universitaire, journaliste, haut fonctionnaire, cadre d’une entreprise d’Etat, soldat ou haut gradé en service pendant la décennie noire, et encore ouvrier agricole ou simple militant : leurs récits entrecoupés de silences, de rires et de larmes esquissent le terrible tableau d’une souffrance multiforme, toujours aiguë et trop longtemps tue.

09 June 2022

Recent films. Babetida Sadjo: Hématome

Babetida Sadjo
Belgique - 2021 - fiction - 18min10

Twenty five years later, Judith finally dares to break her silence and to find justice for the rape that she suffered as a child. She bitterly discovers that the trial will not take place. Thirsting for justice, she confronts the pedophile who shattered her life.

About Babetida Sadjo
Babetida Sadjo Belgian-based actress turned filmmaker from Guinea-Bissau interprets the role of Judith in her film Hematome. She had this to say about the film:

"This film was really for me a way of telling the victims who have not had the courage to speak that I hear them. I do hear them because it happened to me too. I have compassion with them. The justice of humanity does not always suffice. How does one continue to live, to continue to be a woman, to full experience her sensuality,  motherhood, without the constant shadow of this trauma?" (From the interview with Anne Feuillère et Harald Duplouis:

06 June 2022

Fan Sissoko: On the Surface (World Festival of Animated Film)

Fan Sissoko: On the Surface
(World Festival of Animated Film)
6-11 June 2022


Animation - 2021 - Iceland/U.S./Mali - 4min
A young Black woman goes swimming in the Icelandic sea and reflects on her experience of raising a child in a country that feels nothing like home. As she enters the freezing water, she relives her traumatic pregnancy. Being in the wild and facing her fears is helping her heal.

Fan Sissoko is a French-Malian artist and filmmaker based in Reykjavik, with a background in design for social change. Her work explores themes of migration, motherhood, otherhood and neurodiversity. Her animated short film On the Surface was awarded a grant from Art With Impact, and screened at festivals around the world, including Clermont-Ferrand ISFF (France), Encounters (UK), Ottawa International Animation Festival (CA), Margate Film Festival (UK), Rex Animation Festival (SWE). It won the Heartwired Award at Our Heritage, Our Planet Film Festival (US).

Café court / Short Talk - Fan Sissoko from ClermontFd Short Film Festival on Vimeo.

03 June 2022

Festival de Cinéma Les Teranga 2022 (Thème: Prendre sa place de femme par le cinéma | Taking her place as a woman through cinema) Senegal

Festival de Cinéma Les Teranga 2022

Prendre sa place de femme par le cinéma
Taking her place as a woman through cinema 
3e édition du 29 juin au 2 juillet | 3rd edition 29 June - 2 July 
Invité d'honneur | Guest of honor 
Maroc | Morocco


02 June 2022

Under the fig trees : de l'amour à l'ombre des figuiers | Love under the shade of fig trees - a review by Falila Gbadamassi (

Under the fig trees : de l'amour à l'ombre des figuiers
Love under the shade of fig trees 
a review by Falila Gbadamassi
published the 25/05/2022 at Link

The first feature film by Franco-Tunisian filmmaker Erige Sehiri, screened at the Directors' Fortnight Cannes 2022.
Translation from French by Beti Ellerson. An Women in Cinema Blog collaboration.

It's harvest day for Fide and his gang composed of Melek, Sana his sister, and Mariam. But for these young Tunisians, finding themselves under the fig trees seems above all an opportunity to put their love life in perspective, or at least to try to (re)build it. The images of the work environment of this agricultural labor force alternate between conversations among the young women and their male alter egos. Hence, Melek finds an old love, Abdou, who had disappeared overnight. The vestiges of love can still be found in the eyes of the young woman. As for Firas and Sana, the relationship begins...

In this closed setting that constitutes a field of figs, Erige Sehiri paints portraits of women and men where a slice of life is played out under these trees. For some it is because this work is a necessary source of income. The gravity of the sequence where the workers receive their pay, plays out side by side with the lightness of another where the four heroines spruce up after a day's work. Then Erige Sehiri's camera scrutinizes their gestures and faces down to the smallest detail.

By filming these details up close, the filmmaker seems to want to offer the viewer a personal encounter with each and every one of her characters. Finally, this feature film by the Franco-Tunisian director relates a bittersweet chronicle about feelings of love, shrouded in a bit of summery slumber.

01 June 2022

South African Women in Cinema, Visual Media and Screen Culture

South African Women in Cinema,
Visual Media and Screen Culture
Report by Beti Ellerson

Notes continuing...


There are multiple racial, ethnic, religious, and historical signifiers of South African identity and this identification is reflected in the creative expression of the artists. Hence, the inquiry to know: Who are these women makers, cultural producers and workers? How do they negotiate these identities within the often contested terrain that continues to manifest itself decades since the emergence of a democratic and so-called rainbow nation?

The African Women in Cinema Project emerged in 1996, two years after the official end of apartheid, hence my initial focus was on the black women of South Africa and their experiences during this historic moment. Since the creation of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema and the African Women in Cinema Blog in 2009 the endeavor has extended, to present the myriad multi-ethnic experiences of South African women, from African, Indian, Malaysian, European origins. Moreover, Audrey T McCluskey's book of interviews, The Devil you Dance with : Film Culture in the New South Africa, released in 2009 attests to the multiple identities of the country.

Masepeke Sekhukhuni, who was a director the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg, noted the importance for black students to understand the implications of cinema/filmmaking practice in terms of identity. As filmmakers they would be shaping a new way of seeing and interpreting cinema and visual media.

Miriam Patsanza set up the video production company Talent Consortium in Zimbabwe in 1984. The company, which is also a school, moved in Johannesburg in the 1990s to take a more active part in "redefining the media" in South Africa: "Whilst there are specific gender related obstacles for the majority of us in Southern Africa, the problems endured by most women in TV and film are the same as those experienced by males who have also been excluded because of their race. The strategy for change, therefore, is to address the issues of media ownership and cultural representation as a joint force whilst at the same time insisting on bringing about respect and acknowledgment of other sexes, different languages, and the culture and style of indigenous peoples".* 

Legendary screen and stage actor, producer, playwright Thembi Mtshali who played the role of Pat in Mapantsula (directed by Oliver Schmitz and written by Schmitz and Thomas Mogotlane, recalls in a interview with me in 1997 the impact of this social political film produced and released in 1988 during the apartheid era: "That was the first political movie made in South Africa, in the late eighties, during the state of emergency in our country. A lot was happening around us. I remember that the casting was very closed. During the interview, they wanted to understand what your political views were and, of course, they really had to be careful.  Everything was underground. It was done clandestinely.  Finally, we started filming. Most of the shots were done in Soweto, in this woman's house.  Most of the whites who were working with the film were liberals.  The whole thing was done right under the nose of the system, without them knowing it. Before they knew it, the film was outside the country. It was introduced at the Cannes Festival." She was conferred an honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Visual and Performing Arts from Durban University of Technology in May 2022.

Black visual activist Zanele Muholi focuses her lens—both still and moving image—on the experiences of black lesbians.

Embracing the technologies of the new millennium Jabu Nadia Newman’s web series “The Foxy Five” is an intersectional feminist exploration of the lives of its five black protagonists as they confront the myriad issues around gender, sexuality and race. At the same time, she describes the web series format as having the potential of radical feminist expression.

Zulfah Otto-Sallies (1961-2016) explored the lives and histories of the Cape Malay community in the Bo-Kaap society of Cape Town, especially as it relates to intergenerational relationships and attitudes towards tradition versus modernity and the diverse experiences of Cape Muslim society.

Maganthrie Pillay, of Indian descent, directed the pioneering feature film 34 South.

Filmmaker-scholar Jyoti Mistry, also of Indian descent, is a scholar and filmmaker.

The desire to network and empower women in the film and television sectors of South Africa is particularly evident from the grassroots, individual initiatives to the insertion of policies on the governmental level. Following is a selection of initiatives.

Women of the Sun founded in 2005, though no longer active, described its role as "an instrumental organisation promoting women in the film and television industry…provid[ing] vital services to women in the sector." Through its first ever African women film festival in 2010, its aim was to put "African women filmmakers on the map." The Women of the Sun Film Festival ran alongside the African Women Filmmakers' Forum hosted by the Goethe Institute; most of the women who attended the forum also screened works at the festival. Twenty-five women from more than fifteen countries, representing most regions of the continent and the diaspora, convened to discuss as a group the various issues that they had vowed to keep alive since their last respective meetings. The purpose of the event, according to the organizers, was to contribute to existing structures and build upon long-term strategies, thus working alongside African women filmmakers who are already leading the way. The publication Gaze Regimes: Film and Feminisms in Africa. Eds. Antje Schuhmann, Jyoti Mistry. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand, 2015, was one outcome of the African Women Filmmakers' Forum.

Mzansi Women's Film Festival, created in 2014 "celebrates women filmmakers of South Africa, Africa and the World thus to encourage spirit of engagement, collaboration, co-create for a better and screen films about women and by women filmmakers." It's objective is to provide "a platform to empower women filmmakers by showcasing films by women and about women".

Sisters Working in Film and Television (SWIFT) South Africa, currently chaired by Zanele Mtembu, was launched in 2017, as a network of South African women whose focus is the empowerment and advancement of women in the visual media. The next year it partnered with the National Film and Video Foundation on the research for the publication, Gender Matters in the South African Film Industry". The National Film and Video Foundation, an agency of the South African Department of Arts and Culture endeavors to ensure gender parity in all aspect of art and cultural production.

The Durban FilmMart Programme 2021 featured the Film Panel, Africa in Focus: Womxn in Film. The objective of the initiative: to traverse issues of gender equality and safe working spaces, how to go about changing the structures of production and the infrastructure of the industry, while navigating spaces of sexism and other antiquated notions. The panel featured Edima Otuokon of the Ladima Foundation, Zanele Mthembu, current chair of SWIFT and Antoinette Engel of Black Women Disrupt. The conversation explores the newly-created initiatives that challenge the status quo and work towards a more equitable ways of working.

Filmmaker/artist/activist Seipati Bulane-Hopa held the post of Secretary General of FEPACI (Pan African Federation of Filmmakers from 2006 to 2013, the first woman to hold the position.

Similarly, Jackie Motsepe, who served on the all-women-helmed juries at Fespaco 2013, is a producer and film activist.


The complexities and ambiguities of discourses in/on South African cinema by some white South African women have often revolved around the vexed history of apartheid and their positionality as white people in the post-1994 South Africa. A few examples explored in the African Women in Cinema Blog: Filmmaker and historian Rina Jooste, an Afrikaans-speaking South African of European descent asserts her identity and claims her experiences as part of African history. She uses filmmaking as a tool to explore the complex layers of South African society with a focus on Afrikaner identity and the collective history of apartheid from both sides. Scotland-based scholar Lizelle Bisschoff acknowledges her white privilege as a White South African and attempts to negotiate that identity in her work and research on African cultural production. In her films and writing, Bridget Thompson examines her evolution as a filmmaker outside of the “white cultural Bantustan into the wider black world intellectually, politically, socially, culturally and spiritually."

While not claiming by any means to be exhaustive, as the country's activities are ever-growing, the African Women in Cinema Blog includes a small selection of voices that are indicative of South African's diversity and wide-ranging initiatives.

*Source: Miriam Patsanza: From Zimbabwe to South Africa: starting all over again | Du Zimbabwe à l’Afrique du Sud: on recommence tout by/par Julia Landau. Ecrans d’Afrique/African Screen N° 8 - 1994. p. 30. Also include in Zimbawbe entry.

Seipati Bulane-Hopa: Fepaci (Pan African Federation of Filmmakers)
Moikgantsi Kgama's ImageNation

Zanele Muholi: Difficult Love

White Women of South Africa Negotiating Identities
Rina Jooste

Blog Archive