Edited Collection: Ousmane Sembene: Writer, Filmmaker, and Revolutionary Artist

 

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This edited collection of the works of the Senegalese writer and filmmaker Ousmane Sembene was the product of a long conversation on the current state of African cinemaI had with two colleagues, Ghirmai Negash and Oumar Cherif Diop, at the 37th annual conference of the African Literature Association in Athens Ohio in 2011.

At the end of one of the concurrent sessions on African films, the three of us spoke at length about the language question in African literature, the use of indigenous languages in African films, the need for a new aesthetics of visual representation, a more nuanced engagement with the thematic preoccupation of filmmakers, issues of audience receptivity, and the freedom of the artist.

At the end of the three-day meeting, Cherif Diop and I agreed that Sembene has not received the critical attention or the literary acclaim he deserved. We came to the conclusion that perhaps an edited volume on his works would be the beginning of that process of recognition, and so, the project Ousmane Sembene: Writer, Filmmaker, and Revolutionary Artist was born.

The edited collection, published by Africa World Press in 2015, is divided into 4 sections, and records a total of 35 contributions: 7 interviews, 13 articles on filmography, 11 articles on the novel and short story, and 4 tributes. To date, this is the biggest collection on the works of Ousmane Sembene. There is also an Introduction written by Ernest Cole and Cherif Diop, and a Select Bibliography for further reading.

The book makes the claim that prominent as motif in the works of Sembene is his denunciation of neocolonialism and African complicity in the political and psychological colonization of its people. It further argues that Sembene criticizes religion and education as instruments of colonial domination and agents of destruction of African cultural heritage. He condemns the Western media for its misrepresentation and dehumanization of indigenous African people and systems, and for promoting a culture of inferiority and sub humanity that accentuates binaries inherent in Western ideological constructs of superiority and civilization.

It is in this regard that Sembene emphasizes that African art, and filmmaking in particular, must work to reverse the binaries and deconstruct the structures of hegemony in order to foster consciousness, social liberation, and political empowerment of the masses. The cost of the volume is $39.99.

 

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