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 lepetitjournal.com.
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…
The web series as a radical feminist practice
African women in cinema manifestos
Sarah Maldoror: reflections on the Another Gaze tribute
Words of Marthe Djilo Kamga
Sabbar Artistiques women’s seminar
Djia Mambu report of Elles Tournent film festival
Jabu Nadia Newman: The Foxy Five web series
African women in cinema in conversation at FIFF Festival International du Film de Fribourg
Report on the launch of African Women Filmmakers Hub
Report of Afrika Film Festival: Sisters in African Cinema
Beti Ellerson: ‘African Women in Cinema’ - Women’s Film Activism
Teaching African Women in Cinema Studies
Feminist Africa: African feminist engagement with cinema
Fatou Kande Senghor: My work, my passion