Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sembène & Money

Some preliminary thoughts here on Ousmane Sembène as I gradually get into posting in earnest about his work--because From the Clouds needn't be all about finished products, but about collaborations, labor, criticisms, correction, new ideas. I have still only seen a few films by Sembène, and will see more over the next few weeks, but thus far the two major polarities seem to be sketching themselves out along the backdrop of Senegal's (and Africa's) place and identity in world history and geopolitics--the axes are feminism (or women) and money. The circulation of money from Europe & North America to Africa (and, of course, away from it) is the catalyst and backdrop for Mandabi and it is a kind of background motif in Faat Kiné, where characters make comments about Old and New Africa, "black" (i.e., not European, not "civilized") ways of conducting business, and education or vacations abroad (to France, to Canada). Sembène's cinema is also of course highly supportive of matriarchy--if not as an absolute, then as a materially necessary combatant to patriarchy and all its offensive defense mechanisms. Tradition is important to a lot of these characters, including very sympathetic ones, but they (and hence Sembène) make clear that not all tradition is to be kept blindly, such as the climactic moment with the long-absent fathers in Faat Kiné. Consider also, in Mooladé, that it is a tradition of female togetherness, of solidarity in their roles as daughters/wives/mothers, that allows the women to band together to overcome a tradition of FGM.

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