Ousmane Sembene

Det Utvidete Bibliotek, OCA and Afrikan History Week, present:
Ousmane Sembène and African Cinema

The Senegalese filmmaker and writer Ousmane Sembène (1923-2007) was a crucial figure in Africa’s postcolonial culture. Widely seen as the father of African cinema, Sembène was a writer who took up filmmaking in the 1960s, in part because he believed that his films could address a wider audience than his novels. Black Girl [La Noire de…] (1965), his debut feature, is often referred to as the first African film.

All events are free and open to all. Talks and subtitles for these events are in English. Refreshments will be served.

Wednesday 14th November, 7pm, free

Manthia Diawara
at OCA, Nedregt. 7

Thursday 15th November, 7pm (doors open 6.30pm, no late entry), free
Manthia Diawara introduces Black Girl [La Noire de…] (dir. Ousmane Sembène, Senegal 1966, 60mins) (In French with English subtitles)
at Deichmanske Hovedbibliotek (Oslo City Library) – Main lecture hall, Arne Garborgs plass 4

Friday 16th November, 4pm, free

Ceddo (dir. Ousmane Sembène, Senegal 1976, 117 mins) (In Wolof and French with English subtitles)
at Deichmanske Hovedbibliotek (Oslo City Library) – Main lecture hall, Arne Garborgs plass 4

Saturday 17th November, 3pm, free
Xala (dir. Ousmane Sembène, Senegal 1975, 123 mins) (In Wolof and French with English subtitles)
at Deichmanske Hovedbibliotek (Oslo City Library) – Cinema space, Arne Garborgs plass 4

Wednesday 14th November, 7pm, free
Manthia Diawara
at OCA, Nedregt. 7

A lecture by Manthia Diawara, Director of the Institute of Afro-American Studies Programme at New York University, on the influence of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s négritude on the development of African film; the New Art Wave of African cinema; Ousmane Sembène’s cinema; and the new video phenomenon of Nollywood in Nigeria. This lecture is part of OCA’s ongoing series ‘On Négritude: A Series of Lectures on the Politics of Art Production in Africa’. For more information see www.oca.no.

Thursday 15th November, 7pm (doors open 6.30pm, no late entry), free
Manthia Diawara introduces Black Girl [La Noire de…] (dir. Ousmane Sembène, Senegal 1966, 60mins) (In French with English subtitles)
at Deichmanske Hovedbibliotek (Oslo City Library) – Main lecture hall, Arne Garborgs plass 4

‘Black Girl is a masterpiece’ (Cinelogue, January 2011).

Black Girl won Sembène the 1966 Jean Vigo Prize at Cannes. Based on Sembène’s novel Voltäique, the film tells of the exile and despair of a Senegalese domestic servant, Diouana (Mbissine Therese Diop), who is taken to the Riviera by her French employers. Mistreated and abused by the Madame, Diouana feels her life has been reduced to that of a slave, her personal freedoms denied; she chooses the ultimate act of resistance. “There are few endings in all of cinema as powerful and rich as this—brimming with tragic wisdom and latent meaning, with finality and promise, with humor and pain. . . . It is at this point that African cinema begins” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader). Written by Sembène, from his novel. Photographed by Christian Lacoste. With Mbissine Therese Diop, Anne-Marie Jelinck, Momar Nar Sene, Robert Fontaine.

Professor Manthia Diawara collaborated with Ngugi wa Thiong’o on the documentary Sembène Ousmane: The Making of African Cinema (1993). Most recently he directed Who’s Afraid of Ngugi?, Bamako Sigi-kan, Conakry Kas, Diaspora Conversations and In Search of Africa. Director of NYU’s Institute of Afro-American Affairs and Director of the Africana Studies Program, he is the author of We Won’t Budge: An African Exile in the World (2003), Black-American Cinema: Aesthetics and Spectatorship (1993), African Cinema: Politics and Culture (1992), and In Search of Africa (1998). He has published widely on the film and literature of the Black Diaspora.

Friday 16th November, 4pm, free
Ceddo (dir. Ousmane Sembène, Senegal 1976, 117 mins) (In Wolof and French with English subtitles)
at Deichmanske Hovedbibliotek (Oslo City Library) – Main lecture hall, Arne Garborgs plass 4

Slave traders, Christian missionaries, and proselytizing Muslims come together at a mythical, unspecified moment of West African history, as a Wolof princess resists a powerful imam who forcibly converts an entire village. “Ceddo” refers to a caste that refuses conversion to Islam or Christianity. This film, banned in Senegal, incorporates fantastic costumes and music from Cameroonian jazzman Manu Dibango.

“African cinema has laboured under so many constraints, whether colonial or financial, that it is surprising that it exists at all. It does, however, thanks largely to Ousmane Sembène, born in Senegal in 1923. He has not made many films, but at least two of them, Xala and Ceddo, deserve to be counted among the best. … It is his sense of irony, coupled with anger, that makes his work outstanding.” (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, Century of Films).

Saturday 17th November, 3pm, free
Xala (dir. Ousmane Sembène, Senegal 1975, 123 mins) (In Wolof and French with English subtitles)
at Deichmanske Hovedbibliotek (Oslo City Library) – Cinema space, Arne Garborgs plass 4

Zeroing in on the myth of African independence and on the capitulation to white colonial policies by newly empowered black African leaders, this savage and funny satire deals with a businessman who is suddenly struck down by the xala: a curse that renders its victim impotent.

“Widely regarded as Ousmane Sembène’s finest achievement, Xala is a cutting morality tale. In the country’s capital city, a group of individuals attain political power via an absurdist coup and Sembène observes the corruptive effects this sudden shift of power has on the community. Though these men have regained control of a government that belongs to their people, they are oblivious to the responsibility that comes with this power. … You’d be hard pressed to find a filmmaker this critical of the political powers-that-be that threaten their fellow people’s livelihoods.” (Slant magazine)

Xala was listed by Empire magazine as one of the 100 best films of World Cinema.

More on Ousmane Sembène:
“Born in Senegal in 1923, Sembène found employment as a construction worker in Dakar in his teens before being drafted into the Free French forces in 1944 (an experience that would later inform his searing historical drama Camp de Thiaroye). After being radicalized by a series of local labour disputes throughout 1946 (which he would later immortalize in his acclaimed 1960 novel God’s Bits of Wood) Sembène stowed away on a commercial freighter to Marseilles, where he worked as a docker for five years and became active in the communist-led trade union movement, eventually joining the French Communist party. Turning to writing after a serious injury on the docks, Sembène published his first novel, Black Docker, in 1956; returning to Senegal in 1960, he quickly established himself as one of the country’s leading novelists. Despite his literary success, Sembène believed that his work was not reaching the great majority of his fellow people, which led him to the cinema. Though frequently referred to as “the father of African cinema,” it would be more pertinent to refer to Ousmane Sembène as the father of indigenous cinema—a global rather than continental distinction. While Sembène’s films, no less than the novels which preceded them, deal specifically and penetratingly with the unique history of the African continent and its tortured relationship with the Europe that both enslaved it and equipped it with certain tools to free itself from enslavement, his form of radical, politicized cinema has become an eminently movable and teachable mode of filmmaking for indigenous filmmakers worldwide. Proudly displaying those aspects of his people’s culture and society that were typically excluded from Westernized depictions of his native land, Sembène also borrowed the styles and motifs of Western literary and cinematic traditions—chiefly irony, satire, and a faith in the liberating power of secularized modernity—to drive home his points. Sembène was as bitingly critical of those “backwards” elements of his own culture as he was of the brutality and discrimination visited upon the African continent by the forces of colonialism, and it is this complex double critique that has made his work so vital and controversial for more than four decades.” (from the Toronto International Film Festival 2011)

Det Utvidete Bibliotek
Kunsthall Oslo and the Deichmanske Bibliotek (the Oslo Public Library) are collaborating on Det Utvidete Bibliotek [The Expanded Library]. Events are free and open to all, involving Norwegian and international speakers, performers, writers, artists, and filmmakers. This project is a collaboration between two institutions whose models were formed in the post-enlightenment project of public edification. The Kunsthall and the Library are seeking to create new modes of working that extend and update these models in light of contemporary practice. Det Utvidete Bibliotek [The Expanded Library] is a programme towards the imagination of a new hybrid space, produced from elements of the library and the kunsthall, but also of the theatre, the cinema and the free university. Most events take place in the lecture hall at the Deichman Library.

Det Utvidete Bibliotek [The Expanded Library] is supported by Fritt Ord [The Free Speech Foundation] and Norsk Kulturråd [The Norwegian Arts Council].

OCA
The Office for Contemporary Art Norway is a foundation created by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in autumn 2001 with the aim of strengthening the position of contemporary visual arts and production from Norway and of stimulating and facilitating exchange between Norwegian and international art professionals and institutions.

Afrikan History Week
Afrikan History Week  is a cultural organization based in Oslo that aims to present African history and culture in a modern and relevant way. This work, which started in 2002, takes place through cultural events, joint projects, exchanges, consultations, lectures and, through an annual cultural festival.

 

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