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Sisters Of The Screen: Women Of Africa On Film, Video, And Television [paperback ed.]
 0865437122, 9780865437128

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isters

Women on

Film. Video

of Africa

and Television

Beti Ellerson

£

Sisters of the Screen

Sisters of the Screen

Women of Africa on Film, Video, and Television

Beti Ellerson

Africa World Press, Inc. P.O. Box 1892 I

renton,

N) 08607

P.O. Box 48

Asmara, ERITREA

Africa World Press, Inc. P.O. Box 48

P.O. Box 1892 Trenton, NJ

Asmara, ERITREA

08607

Copyright

©

2000 Bed Ellerson

First printing

2000

All rights reserved.

No

part of this publication

may be reproduced,

stored in a

system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechaniphotocopying, recording or odierwise widiout the prior written permission ot

retrieval cal,

die publisher.

Book

design:

Wanjiku Ngugi

Cover design: Jonadian Gullery

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Sisters

of die screen

linterviewed] by p.

women

Bed

Ellerson

p.

0-86.543-712-2.

- ISBN 0-86543-713-0

Women in die modon

1.

3.

and directors— Africa— Interviews. and directors- Africa-Interviews. 1

995.9. W6S47

791 ,4’082’-096~dc21

(pbk.)

picture industry-Africa.

television broadcasting-- Africa.

BN

& television

of Alrica on film, video,

cm.

Filmography:

ISBN

:

2.

Women

in

Women motion picutre producers 4. Women television producers I.

Ellerson, Bed.

1998

98-44144

CIP

CONTENTS Acknowledgements Foreword Preface and Methodology Introduction

Aissatou

Adamou

Niger -Director Shirikiana Aina

USA -Di recto r/Producer Chantal Bagilishya

Rwanda -Producer Marie-Clenience Blanc-Paes

...

Madagascar -Producer Mahen Sophia

Bonetti

Sierra Leone-Festival Organizer

Maiinouna Helene Diarra Mali -Actor M’Bissine Therese Diop Senega l-Actor

Alexandra Duah

Ghana -Actor Anne-Laure holly Togo-Director

Lucy Gebre-Egziabher

E th wpia -Direct o r Valerie Kabore

Burkina Faso-Director

1

25

Wajuhi Kaniau

133

Kenya-Director

Ai Keita-Yara Burkina Faso -A dor

14,3

Wanjiru Kinyanjui

14

Kenya-Diredor

Amssatou Maiga

159

Burkina Faso-Ador

Sarah Maldoror Guadeloupe /A ngo la -Di red 0 r

Oumema Mamadali

l

1

g5

'

1

Co mo ros-Di redo r

Salem Mekuria

1~ 7

E th wp a -Di recto r 1

Zanele

Mthembu

183

South Africa -Direct or

Thembi Mtshali

193

South Africa-A dor

Catherine

Wangui Muigai

205

Kenya -Prod ucer

Fanta Regina Nacro

21

Bu rkina Faso-Di redo r Ngozi Onwurah

22

Nigeria -Di recto r

Franceline

Oubda

231

Burkina Faso -1 director

Aminata Ouedraogo Burkina Faso-I director

239

25

Fran^oise PfafT

1

Guadeloupe/France-Film Scholar

26 7

Monique Phoba Democratic Republic of the Congo -Director

275

Gloria Rolando

Cuba -Direct or 29

Naky Sy Savane

1

Ivory Coast-Actor

Cilia

295

Sawadogo

B u rkin a

Faso -D? rector

Masepeke Sekhukhuni South Africa-Diredor

Wabei Siyolwe Zambia-L )? rector/Producer

Najwa

529

Tlili

7 'u nisia-Di recto r

Prudence Urin

Zim ba Irwe-D red o r ?

Zara Mahainat Yacoub Chad-Director

Florentine

Yameogo

...

Burkina Faso-Diredor

Summary

559

Filmography

56

1

58

1

Bibliography

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I

would

screen

who

voices but

my

express

like to

sincere appreciation first to those sisters of the

are included in the collection, as well as those

whom

from

conversations

in this

I

was not able

volume; those

but for various reasons

their

to secure permission to use their

who

we were not

who gave

agreed to be

able to

make

it

a part of the project,

happen, as well as the

other sisters of the screen everywhere who have, by the act of making, thinking about, writing about images, contributed to my in-

many

many,

would also like to and evolution m this project. note the true sense of commitment and sisterhood that so many of the women showed as they spread the word about this project and made conterests, ideas, thoughts,

tacts

1

with other women.

would like to acknowledge the Center for the Study of ( ulture and Development in Africa (1994-1997), housed m the African Studies Department at Howard University, and its Program Director, Mbye Cham. I would also like to thank Mbye for his support and also for believing in I

this project.

As

a recipient of

ministered by the Center,

I

a Rockefeller

was able

Humanities fellowship, ad-

to realize a significant part of

this

project during the 1996-97 fellowship year.

Grateful acknowledgement tions that gave

me

information: the

is

hereby tendered to the

access to their collections or provided

many

me

institu-

with helpful

Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard

l

niver-

(Washington, DC); Audecam (Paris); Atria (Pans) with a very special thanks to Andree Davanture, Annabel 1 homas and C laude le Gallou; Amina Magazine (Paris) especially acknowledging Assiatou Bah Diallo; FEPACI (Ouagadougou), a special thanks to Gaston Kabore; Ecrans d’Afnque, a thank you to Clement Tapsoba (Ouagadougou) and Alessandra

sity

Speciale (Milan);

FESPACO

(Ouagadougou) thanks

to

Regine Yoda; and

Zimmedia (Zimbabwe).

A sincere thanks goes

to

my

friends and colleagues

who

assisted

me

in

editing and proofreading the text: Lisa Fanning-Diene, Glenda Johnson,

Ruth Rhone and Maria Roof I would also like to acknowledge the many people, too numerous to mention all by name, who as-

Yvonne sisted

Poser,

me

in

contacting the “sisters”

who

I

needed to get

secure permission to use their conversations

in

in

touch with to

the book. Although

I

was

Sisters of the Screen

not able to contact or secure permission from some,

I

sincerely appreciate

many who assisted me m the search; would like particular, Isaac Mabhikwa of the Southern African F dm

the tireless effort of so to mention, in

I

Festival.

Special thanks to Robert R. Edgar, Professor in the African Studies

Department at Howard University, and a friend and colleague. I thank Bob for his inspiration, patience, and thoughtfulness as well as his inv aluable experience, which he offered throughout. Other friends and colleagues who have been supportive and encouraging are Mtembezi Inniss,

Mueni Muiu, Guy Martin, and Susan Andrade would also like to thank Africa World Press I

Checole,

who

believed in this project and

who was

publisher,

Kassahun

the catalyst to

its

be-

ing conceived as a written work.

must mention the Ellerson family, my mother Vera, my all of whom watched excerpts sister Audrey, and my brother Anthony of the filmed version of this project and gave lively and enthusiastic comments and who are now anxiously waiting to read the book. I must also I

definitely



my niece, Tracey, who has been an avid cheerleader. am indebted to my partner Christophe Poulenc, without whom this project would not have been possible. He has been a constant companion add

I

throughout

this effort.

Initially

conceived as a documentary project,

in

most of the conversations were filmed by Christophe, in Ouagadougou, Montreal, Washington, DC, and Paris. As took on the task of translating the conversations from the capacity of director of photography

(etc.),

I

French, which constituted more than tience, listened to the audiotapes

half,

Christophe, with infinite pa-

and proofread the translated copy.

FOREWORD most welcome development in the short lo date, scholhistory of studies on African cinema and screen practices, cinema and video arship, criticism and general commentaries on African

The publication

of this

book

is

a

and, among have focussed disproportionately on the films made by men women in these other topics, the various roles, images and portraitures of lament about works. Reasons advanced for this slant include the perennial women in Afnca, the general absence of women filmmakers and films by Bella, few, with the exception of pioneers like Safi faye and herese Sita absence to however, have bothered to probe beneath the surface of this factors which explore, explain and interrogate the complex of reasons and task and a account for this absence. Even fewer have actually made it a as well as priority to lookfor these female filmmakers and videographers, African cinother modes of female presence and practice in the arena of seminal ema and visual media. Sisters of the Screen accomplishes these two tasks. Enough of the cry and whining about absence. absence 01 disapPresence, albeit emergent, however, does not spell 1

responsible pearance of the structures, practices and factors that are screen practitioners the continuing imbalance between male and female that Beti hllerson s questions in Africa. The responses and commentaries actresses, and queries elicit from the female filmmakers, videographers, foi

out and followed producers, writers, and film scholars whom she sought over time, testify to the staying in numerous places in three continents reveal power of these structures and practices. More significantly, they challenges and need African female will and agency, for they speak to the that want to inhibit or retaid to dismantle those structures and practices women in all aspects of African a more forceful and equitable presence of

cinema, media and society, in general. creative process for women Sisters of the Screen is a statement about the How and why African screen artists in Africa, as well as the Diaspora. tradiwomen screen artists create and work, their challenges, difficulties, background, their aspirations and numerous other tional restrictions, their

experiences in domains— factors covering a wide spectrum of women’s these constitute the usually figured as male artistic as well as social



assembles thread that runs through the conversations Ellerson

in this

Sisters of the Screen

ground-breaking anthology. Equally pronounced in this anthology is the range of subject matter and concerns of the work of African female screen artists

and practitioners, their conflation of the personal and the

and the place of their work Fhe

women

presented

in

public,

African cinema and media, in general.

in Sisters

of

the Screen illustrate the

range and

variety of female involvement and practices in African cinema and visual

media.

The anthology

is

a bold assertion of

presence and significance

in

the midst of laments of absence. Sisters of the Screen is a significant contribution to more wholesome and better descriptions and understandings of

African screen practices.

— Mbye Cham Washington, June

xn

2,

DC

1999

Preface and Methodology emerged out of my research on African women m visual culture, my desire to find a paradigm for reading images of and by Af rican women, and my own work in videography and as a performance Sisters of the Screen

undertook this project on a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship during the 1996-97 academic year at the Center for the Study of C ulture and Development in Africa administered by the African Studies Depart-

artist.

ment

I

at

Howard

As

University.

my

a fellow,

objective

was

to

make

a

inventory of the works, thoughts, and practices of African women the various areas of the cinema and present it m the form of a documen-

critical in

tary.

Nineteen ninety-seven proved to be an exceptional year for encounhree events took place where tering African women in the cinema. 1

thirty-four of forty-one interviews were conducted.

FESPACO

'\

he 15 th edition of

(Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television of

Ouagadougou) presented the highest entry ever of films of all categories by women. There was the rare appearance of Safi faye (Senegal), who hough Isitsi Dangarembga (Zimpresented her feature film Mossane. babwe) was not present, her debut film Everyone’s Child, was screened. A week after the closing of FESPACO, a film screening of works by women, 1

developpement/Women’s f ilms for Development, was held in Ouagadougou on March 8th and 9th in commemoration of the International Day of the Woman. (A commemorative event is held every year.) This event provided another occasion to meet women

Films de femmes pour

whom

I

had not encountered during the actual

films that to

le

were not part of the

meet some

of

FESPACO

the filmmakers

festival, as well as view'

screenings.

who were

still in

It

also allowed

me

Ouagadougou within

another context. Less than tw o months later, the 1997 African Literature Association Conference, hosted by Michigan State University at East Lansing, Michigan, devoted its entire platform to African cinema. Dangarembga was the keynote speaker of the Women s C aucus Luncheon. Also

at the

(Ethiopia)

conference were Ngozi

who spoke on

the

ALA

Onwurah (Nigeria) and Salem Mekuria panel

“Women and Cinema” which was

M’mbugu-Schelling (Tanzania) w ho was not present. Another highlight of the conference was the screening of Assia Djebar’s also to include Flora

Sisters of the Screen

1978

La Nouba des Femmes dn Mont Chenoua and her passionate disof how the film was made and the response to it at that time.

film,

cussion

,

Diasporan filmmaker Gloria Rolando (C uba), who had previously toured the United States with her films in 1996 talked about her film Oggun ,

during the discussion after the screening. While many of the women who attended the 1997 Vues d’Afrique were also present at FESPACO, there were several that only attended the Montreal festival. The same year, the Paris-based cinema house Images d’Ailleurs organized a film forum titled “Cri du coeur des femmes” at which many of the films that were viewed at other festivals throughout the year were also screened. Also, during 1997 the book With Open Eyes: ,

Women and African

Cinema edited by Kenneth Harrow, was published. In addition, in 1998 the Festival international de film de femmes/International Women s Film Festival at Creteil had an impressive platform devoted to women of Africa. These various events give evidence of the growing interest and ,

,

of African

visibility

women

in

the cinema.

During the fellowship year 1996 - 97 while talking with Kassahun was working on a Checole, I mentioned that as my fellowship project documentary on African women in the cinema and that I had already filmed conversations with more than twenty women and was hoping to have as many as forty. Kassahun suggested that it would be a great idea ,

I

to publish these conversations, since a collection of voices of African in

about the project and he told

of

We

the cinema was in itself an original idea.

me

in

depth

The book

Sisters

talked

send him a proposal.

to

more

women

was conceived.

the Screen

As the material for the documentary became larger, and the footage grew into hours and hours, began to worry about how would be able to I

I

present

all

the wonderful and important information that the

revealing.

thought that perhaps

I

120 minutes,

somehow

I

in

addition to an

include the

more than 20 hours of

conversations.

possibility of having the conversations

lection,

I

of

90

to

to have their say, to

When

there

compiled as a written col-

would be an ideal way of allowing allow them to speak for themselves and

realized immediately that

women

work

could later do several volumes presented thematically to

was the the

initial

women were

it

elaborate their experiences. I

feel

very important to present the conversations

it is

format so that the reader may follow the context made. In some cases, the thoughts;

other cases

in

xiv

While

I

an interview

which the points were

women wanted specific questions to guide their the women took the lead and revealed things would never have dared to wanted to ask in order to get

about themselves and their experiences that ask.

in

in

had certain questions that

I

I

Preface and Methodologt



from as many women as possible regarding, for instance, and the notion of a women’s sensibility, attitudes about African women was careful not to impose a femithe image, women organizing, etc. nist agenda,” but rather to elicit an African woman’s perspective.

certain views



I

Methodologically, there have been certain adjustments that ha\e had wntten to be made since the project was not originally conceived as a collection of conversations. Since the original goal

was

to edit the

women

s

documentary, questions were posed differently than they would have been during a face-to-face, audiotaped he piesence of a conversation or other non-visual interview methods. was both camera and cameraperson, or in the few instances when hile a cameraperson and interviewer, presented a different dynamic.

voices together as a conversation

in a

1

I

W

the absence of a camera could take place in an isolated, auexclusive setting, the filmed interview required special lighting and filming. dio, as well as specific locations conducive to the requirements for

conversation

When

in

the possibility of a written collection emerged,

views from

women

with

whom

sation: by telephone, e-mail, in to obtain the

I

was not

I

solicited inter-

able to arrange a filmed convei-

person by audiotape, or by

letter.

In order

level of conversational spontaneity in all the voices,

same

I

( s I exercised a certain degree of editorial license. Also, in some instant was in touch with women after our initial conversation and was able to

more get current information about the status of their projects oi even In in-depth information that had not come out during the interview. several instances,

I

was able

to have pre-interviews or a series of

inter-

views over a period of time. Thus, some conversations are more evolved, while in others women expressed their thoughts, feelings, and reflections m the spirit and energy of a film festival or conference. This often pro-

duced more screened

specific information, usually about the film that

was being

at the festival.

Conversations that took place off-camera outside of the context of an to organized event tended to be longer and the women had more time questions deliberate on what they wanted to say, since I often gave them

beforehand or when we had switched off the tape recorder. In addition, before the there was not the pressure of having to have a visual presence words, camera, or the concern about saying all the right things. In other during an the errrs and umins or the search for words was not a concern instances, audiotaped interview since they would be edited out. In many asked to review a transcript of the interview, which allowed them

women to

add or delete information and make corrections as they saw

also in these instances that

I

lost several of the participants,

fit.

It

was

who perhaps

permission to got too busy to return the revised interview along with the xv

Sisters of the Screen

had one entire conversation by telephone and another by that he had to my delight electronic mail. Mbye Cham announced conducted two interviews for this collection in Zimbabwe at the Southinclude

it.

I





ern African Film Festival in October 1998. Since the project from the beginning, he was aware of

Cham has been close to my objectives and asked

questions that related the spirit of the project.

One significant adjustment

that had to be

made

in

preparing the filmed

conversations for written publication was the need to obtain the permission of the women to allow their conversations to be transcribed and

published in a book collection, a requirement of international copyright laws. I must note that it was because of the three events during 1997 that

meet so many women in the cinema in such a short time. (In the time span of three months I interviewed thirty-one women). 1 he book permission requirement meant that I had to get in touch with thirty I

was able

to

women

spread across the world. Unfortunately, due to an assortment of reasons, I was not able to secure the permission of all the women involved to

have their voices included

much

in this collection.

These women had so

many important ideas to express and share: Safi Faye Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe), Anne Mungai (Kenya),

to say, so

(Senegal),

Zeinabu irene Davis (LISA), Gyasiwa Ansah (Ghana), Horria Saihi (Alge-

Their inclusion would have contributed much

ria).

to the conversation.

Dangarembga who as a writer has added filmmaking to her list of talents; Anne Mungai, who gave an overview of filmmaking and organizing as an African woman; Gyasiwa Ansah as the Safi

Faye as

a pioneer; Tsitsi

daughter of a filmmaker takes the baton; Zeinabu irene Davis talked about African/African diasporan connections, problems, and experiences

in film-

making; and Horria Saihi, journalist/ filmmaker, spoke of the perils of being an artist and documenting artists at a time rorists are prohibiting cultural I

life in

when

integrationist ter-

Algeria.

had made arrangements to interview other women, but, due schedules, inability to

flicts in

to con-

make mutual arrangements, or being down-

right too busy, since often times these interviews had to take place at

organized events where time was a

factor,

some other wonderful women

are not present in this collection: Nadia El Fani (Morocco), Bridget

Pickering (Namibia), Werewere Liking (Cameroon/Cote d’Ivoire), Flora

M’mbugu-Schelling (Tanzania), Assia Djebar (Algeria). Of course, there are the many, many other women who were not in attendance at the events that attended or with whom, for various reasons, was not able to make I

1

contact. I

felt

the reality of the dilemma that

conversation with

xvi

me

as

I

Anne Mungai brought out

attempted to re-connect with

women

in

her

by e-

Preface and Methodologt

mail, lax, telephone, post, or by

“tam-tam

She

throughout the world.

challenge talked about the problems around organizing and the awesome the houndai les of communication, follow-up, and networking outside of

and conferences, when women go back to their respect i\ e ounperhaps attending a tries. Women are scattered throughout the world, workshop, shooting a film, in the editing room, visiting a potential finan(

of festivals

mother, spouse, partner, friend. It becomes a formidable task to make connections and follow-up contacts.

cier,

or simply attending to the roles

of

south of the Sahara,

women in the collection are from Afiica the scope of my project extended to women through-

out the continent.

While only one North African woman, Najwa

While the majority

of

the

1

lili

interviewed Horria Saihi and had had also onattempted to interview two other North African women. North African women who resided in Pans, but was not

(Tunisia),

is

included in the book,

I

I

(

tacted several

schedule to connect with them during my \ lsit. choices and their conseIt is important to detail these methodological that quences because there is not a clear delineation marking the space

my own

able to arrange

North Africa holds within African cinema. In other words, in some conand in texts North Africa is included within African cinema discourse still other instances it is defined within the sphere of Arab cinema. In Arab cinother instances it is simultaneously presented as African and ema.

Another theoretical discussion in defining who is African in African raises the cinema is the question of Africans of European descent. W hich choice not to interview Ingrid Sinclair of Zimbabwe foi participants this collection although she was among the FESPACO 1997 from Senegal, the same list of feature films in competition as Safi b aye

question of

my

on

Tsitsi

Dangarembga

also

from Zimbabwe, and Nadia Fares Anliker from

Tunisia.

another theoretical discussion relates to my choice of was also interincluding four African diasporans (Zeinabu irene Davis African diasporan. viewed), which has to do w ith my own positionality as an point of departure like to revisit Keyan Tomaselli’s question as a Perhaps

I

still

would

for the above “debate”: cin(Questions not easily resolved on the issue of what is African ema concern, for example, what constitutes Africa. Is Arab film ‘Black’ and South African production part of African cinema? Is as cinema necessarily ‘African in origin? Is there such an identity be African personality ? Should African cinema necessarily ‘the

linked to

its

Black diasporic equivalents in the United States, France

and England?

1

xv 11

Sisters of the Screen

Have

denied Ingrid Sinclair an identity as African, yet defined Arab

I

women

within an African identity as well as linked African diasporans to

African cinema as Tomaselli states in his essay?

My to the

interest in including African diasporan

FESPACO

1991

women

is

directly related

Women’s Workshop during which time women

the African Diaspora were excluded.

of

My interest in bringing up the event women

during the conversations with diasporan

as well as the African

organizers of the workshop was to resurface a dialogue, or rather to bring

about a dialogue between the two that never took place.

While

the cinema, voice.

I

am

not suggesting that there

is

a synthesis, that there

Although many of the women know each

at conferences, festivals,

concerted dialogue

in

and workshops,

it is

extremely

is

my own

are not sisters, really,

She did not

would not use in essence,

that

we

like the title,

better in English, and

On

difficult to

have a

title

I

title.

I

many

if it is

I

had

suggested to me,

ecran”),

own

making works much

isolation

assured her that

promised her that In

1

of the book (which

are each in our

though

the cinema

in

projection of a sisterhood. Sarah

translated literally in French “Les soeurs de

films.”

know about each each other’s company

and attitudes regarding the diversity of issues

Maldoror (Guadeloupe), when she read the

we

one

order to share the complexities of experiences, ideas,

arena. Perhaps, in a way, this

“But

is

in

other,

other, have seen each other’s work, or have been in

interests,

among women

have attempted to present a “conversation”

I

it

published

in

French

I

ways, Sarah Maldoror was stating that,

there was not a sisterhood in African cinema, at least not yet.

the other hand, the phrase “sisters of the screen,” to me, elicits a

kindred spirit

among women where

convergence.

It is

there,

where

the screen

is

their ultimate point of

their images are read,

whether

it is

on a

movie screen, television screen, or video screen. As directors, producers, film festival organizers, actors, and critics those who have constructed



these images, played the characters in these images, interpreted these images, found money so these images could be made, or organized so that these images

may be

projected



that space, the screen,

is

the ultimate

from which the moving image is viewed, interpreted, understood. here is a growing body of work on the image of African women in cinema as well as an emergence of theoretical studies on “African women site

1

filmmaking. voices, in

However, the purpose of this project was to document the experiences, and thoughts of African women as a collective body

order to hear their voices, to allow them to speak about

interpret their image and African cinema in general.

tends the

work

that

profiling African

xvi n

Amina magazine 2 has been doing

women

in

the cinema.

Some

how they

This project exfor over a decade:

of the distinct differences

Preface and Methodology

arc that the text

is in

English, the

women

are from

all

regions of Africa

attempt to vw*a\e rather than mainly francophone areas, and there is an and pi oc esses. the voices together and make an analysis of trends, themes, am indebted to Amina which in many ways exposed me to the world of nine-yeai -old African women in the cinema as far back as 1983, when was featured in the June issue for the role she played in I

,

Rosine Yanogo

Gaston Kabore’s JVendKuuni.

I

in

Aissatou Bali

1

hallo,

had a long conversation about this great deal of encouragement and some assistant

editor-in chief of Amina, with

project and received a

commend the work of

whom

I

c

developing contacts.

9 source on Ecrans d’Afrique/ African Screen has also been an important which covAfrican women in the cinema, from the first issue in 1992,

ered the 1991

FESPACO, and profiled certain been a high visibility of women and an impressive efalso voices heard, f aces of women in the cinema have

Women’s Workshop

women, there has fort to make their

at

annual African been well represented on the covers. Vues d’Afrique, the of women and Creole film festival of Montreal, has been on the landscape colloquium on women in the cinema since 1989, when it held an important (Agencc established by AC C in the cinema. The prize Images de femmes, presented at Vues de Cooperation Culturelle et Technique), was first Femmes d Images d’Afrique in 1992. An index of women filmmakers, titled (Tunisia), was born from de rAfnque francophone, compiled by Najwa Tlili helpful guide to names, conthis 1989 colloquium. For me it has been a regions of Africa. tacts, and films by women in francophone document the n deliberately sought out film students in order to I 1

filmmaking process. feelings and experiences at the beginning of their (South such as Wabei Siyolwe (Zambia) and Zanele Mthembu aspect of cinema, Lucy Africa), had returned to school to learn another (Ethiopia) entered film school after a decision to change

While

a few,

Gebre-Egziabher careers and realize

a

dream she had had

since childhood.

with Lucy Gebre-Egziabher in the and summer of 1996 and had the occasion to document on video her third the shooting of fourth student film productions. In an interview during cinematically, she had her most recent film, Wefts Poem, she stated that, film has given he reached a higher level. And indeed she had, for this I

began

a series of conversations

i

film circles beyond high visibility locally and has launched her name in awards and has been the Washington, DC region as she has won several she felt that while her invited to festivals. When I talked to her recently,

her thoughts, at the same tune, during the past three she has seen a great deal of growth and evolution who, while also a film years. Then, there is Gyasiwa Ansah (Ghana),

words presented

in this

collection are

still

xix

Sisters of the Screen

student,

lias

She grew up

a special experience.

the daughter of

Kwaw

in the

world

Ansah. Her choice of a career

cinema, as

of

in film

came

as a

natural process.

African

women filmmaking

practices

are beginning as makers to those

cinema

itself.

who

A young woman who

come

full circle,

entered

acted

in

her

from those who

at the start

of African

first film talks

about the

fascination of that experience while a veteran actor talks about her expeIn addition to

rience acting in a film by the elder of African cinema.

conversations with those behind the camera and those

range of discussions with other representatives a film festival organizer, a film scholar

and

in

critic,

in front,

there

is

a

the domain of cinema:

and film producers.

I

have also included a bibliography of relevant literature as well as a

filmography of

How

is

films, videos,

women who

diverse areas of this world?

woman’s

references?

What

television.

African cinema visualized, described, experienced, theorized,

and interpreted by the nary, a

and programs for

Is

circulate, navigate, negotiate in the

there a

woman’s

visual text, a female gaze?

What

sensibility, a

Who

are their models, their

are the specificities of their experiences in cinema?

are their struggles, accomplishments, goals, and objectives?

whose answers

I

What

These are the ques-

are African representations of female subjectivity? tions

female imagi-

set out to find.

Notes 1

.

Keyan G. Tomaselli, l

Cinema: Theoretical Perspectives on Some

“‘African’

Unresolved Questions,” African Experiences of Cinema

Mbye Cham (London:

British

2.

Amina is women.

magazine published

3

Ecrans d’Afnque/African Screen

c

.

a Paris-based

can cinema.

Film

is

Institute, in

1996 ),

,

ed.,

p.

Imruh Bakari and

165

.

French that focuses on black

an international bilingual review of Afri-

Introduction

The Evolution of “African

women

African

in the

Women of

cinema”

is

a

the

Image

concept that must be analyzed within

the context of social, political, and cultural structures in Africa. It must be discussed within the specific conventions of cinematic practices that

what has come to be called African cinema. The concept “African women in cinema” encompasses the diverse mediums of television, video, and film, which include the narrative, short, documentary, and tele-film. Whatever the genre or format, have emerged

in Africa since the inception of

the films often focus on the social, political, and cultural realities of African society. As more African women work and live outside of the continent, they also deal with issues relating to immigration and the specific situations that they encounter in their host countries. As in African films in general,

it is

rare to find a film for the sake of entertainment.

The dominant

idea of

cinema

as the feature film projected

on

a large

cinema houses does not portray the reality of African cinema in general, and even less the cinema of African women. Perhaps more appropriately, African women in the cinema have

screen viewed by large audiences

chosen the concept “African

in

women

of

the image,’ which, as a concept,

encompasses the diverse means and processes that comprehend then film practices.

While one may now speak of the development of an African women in the cinema movement,” in fact, the emergence of African women as film/ video practitioners has been gradual and sporadic. The visibility of African women as “makers’ may be described as an evolving process. 1 he

beginning coincides with the emergence of African cinema in the 1.960s and 1.970s as a body of African films was forming and an African filmmaking practice was taking shape. Safi 19712.

Faye

Faye (Senegal) as a film student made her short film La passante in to make a film, It was because she was the first African woman

believes, that her film

became

a curiosity in the film circuit of Paris

There were, however, other African women who arrived in the world of cinema even before most of the filmmakers that are recog-

at that time.

Sisters of the Screen

nized today as pioneers. Journalist Therese Sita-Bella (Cameroon) made 1 he film a 30-minute documentary in 1963, entitled Tam Tam a Parrs.

documented the National Dance Company of Cameroon during its tour in Paris. Tam Tam a Parrs was featured at the first FESPACO (at the time called the Week of African Cinema) in February 1969, along with the films of

Mustapha Alassane

(Niger),

Ousmane Sembene

(Senegal),

Ababacar Samb (Senegal), Urbain N’Dia (Cameroon), Paulin Vieyra (Senegal), and Momar Thiam (Senegal). Therese Sita-Bella has had a long, productive career in the area of radio and print journalism. During a 1989 interview she indicated that she has many scripts that she would 1

like to

put to film and, “since cineastes are ageless,” upon her retirement

she hopes to be able to do

so.

2

In 1967, Efua Sutherland (Ghana) produced Arabia:

The Vrllage Story,

a

major documentary film made by ABC, a national LIS. television network. The documentary records the success of one of her most impor-

Atwia Experimental Community Theatre Project. It has been internationally recognized as a “pioneering model for the now popular theater for development.” 3 Her career focus was as a dramatist and writer, for which she is well known and admired. Guadeloupian Sarah Maldoror of the African Diaspora is often accorded Angolan nationality* and, “because of her work and dedication to the cause of Africa,” she is “commonly given a privileged place in comprehensive analysis of Black African cinema.” 5 Her presence as a filmmaker in Africa dates from as early as the 1960s. While her important contributions to African cinema cannot be denied, her positionality continues to be debated. This unresolved status was brought out during a meeting among African women in the cinema in 1991. Nonetheless, she holds an tant projects, the

important place as a filmmaker of the African world. Sarah Maldoror’s Monangambee was included in the second in

FESPACO

1970 under the country Angola. Her film Sambizanga was included

the Carthage Film Festival (Tunisia) in 1972, prize, the

Tanit d’Or. Both events,

among a

where

long

list

it

was awarded

in

first

of other accomplish-

ments and experiences in Africa and filmmaking in Africa, demonstrate that Maldoror s place in African cinema has been firmly recognized and visible since its inception.

The filmmaking experiences of these four women are indicative of the filmmaking practices of African women who have come later. The entry Faye and Sarah Maldoror into filmmaking was the beginning of a sustained career, with the intention of evolving in the area of cinema. On of Safe

the other hand, Therese Sita-Bella and Efua Sutherland continued in their

chosen

2

fields of

journalism and drama, having never made a second film,

Introduction

although Sita-Bella

still

has plans to do

so.

have entered filmmaking as an intended career, careers

man

in

communication, journalism,

some women while others have wedded

In other words,

literature,

information work, hu-

rights advocacy, and education with filmmaking and use

dium of expression

in their

term filmmaker and

in

work. Thus, there

the definition of ‘African cinema’

program

women

deal of visibility to

as a

films

is

medium

that

television

from

me-

fluidity in the use of the

is

the boundaries of filmmaking practices.

portant sector of the audio-visual African films also

it

is

An

im-

generally included

Film

this category,

in

festivals that include

which gives

a

great

television directors.

Only a handful of films was made during tin* beginning period of the 1960s and 1970s. lowever, film/video/ television productions more than quadrupled in the 1980s and continued to increase in the 1990s. 6 While the few film productions in the early period were represented in only a few countries, by the 1980s most regions of the continent were represented, and by the 1990s production had doubled from the preceding decade. While the beginning period of an African woman filmmaking practice was sporadic, during the last two decades there has been a steady increase and proliferation of film production. Thus, African women now I

have

a visible

presence on the landscape

African

Women

“African

women

in

in

the

of

cinema.

Cinema Movement

the cinema” as an organized

movement emerged

at

the

women

in

the

end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s visual

media began

force in order to

to concretize their desire to

make

as African

come together as

their interests and needs

a larger

known. 25-2 7 February

moment for African women in the visual media. an organized movement of African women in the image was later named, may be traced to the 12th edition of

1991 marked a historical

The

genesis of

industry, as

FESPACO the

title

it

in

1991.

A

part of the festival platform was organized under

“Women, Cinema,

The meeting brought

Television and Video

together

fifty

in Africa.”

women from more

than fifteen

was chaired by Annette M’Baye d’Erneville (Senegal), a veteran in the field of communications in Africa, founder of RECIDAK (Rencontres Cinematographiques de Dakar) and director of Consortium de communications audiovisuelles en Afrique (CCA) in Senegal. Annette M’Baye d’Erneville opened the meeting, laying down the objectives of the workshop: l) to provide a forum for women to exchange and share countries.

It

their experiences; 2) to adopt propositions that will help ensure

women

their rightful place, particularly in the areas of training and production;

3

Sisters of the Screen

3) to devise a follow-up structure for dialogue

consciously reflect women’s

and

5) to

common

action; 4) to

women professionals and produce

identify the frustrations of

ries;

and

realities, social

images that

contexts, cultures, and histo-

disseminate that perspective. 7

During the workshop, women filmmakers, producers, actors, technicians, and others in visual media production put forth the fundamentals of a solid organization to defend their interests. Five of the main goals that resulted from the meeting were as follows: l) to develop an index of African women visual media producers and their films; 2) to promote their work across a wide range of networks internationally; 3 ) to establish an itinerant training workshop composed of a group of trainers who circuthroughout Africa;

late

visual

4) to train instructors in the various spheres of

media production;

and participate regularly

The

5) to seek

funding so that

at Film festivals.

women may

attend

8

motion the groundwork for what would become the visual media network called L’ Association des femmes events of this meeting set

in

video/The Association of Professional African Women in Cinema, Television and Video (AFAPTV). It was reorganized in 1995 under the name, The PanAfrican Union of Women in the Image Industry /L’ Union panafricaine des femmes de image (UPAFI). In April 1989, two years before the FESPACO workshop, the Montrealafricaines professionnelles

du cinema, de

la

television et de

la

1’

based Film festival Vues d’Afrique organized a special section devoted to African

women

in the visual

media.

The program consisted of:

l)

a screen-

ing of short and feature length Films, television shows, and video pro-

grams produced and

directed by African

women;

2) a discussion of the

women and the influence of the media; 3 a colloquium on African women in the audiovisual media which included a sur-

screen image of the role of

on-

)

vey of the participants’ assessment of the current situation and their rec-

ommendations. he colloquium addressed needs and interests similar to those expressed at the FESPACO workshop. The objectives of the colloquium 1

were:

l)

to plan speciFic projects for exchanges, training

professional cooperation with African

women

to

develop

programs, and

in

the Film, tele-

and audio-visual sectors; 2) to have an ongoing discussion between anadian officials at the Office of Canadian Film and Television and Afri-

vision, C

can

women

Film directors, technicians, and actors regarding the

ways

that

women’s professional needs; 3 ) to discuss with representatives of governmental and non-governmental international cooperation agencies the ways that women’s level of participation in the the Office can meet the

audio-visual production sectors

4

in

Africa

may

be raised.

Introduction

Femmes damages de l Afrique francophone, compiled by Najwa Tlili (1 unisia), was one of tin* direct results of this 1989 meeting. The index brings together the biography and filmography of women in the cinema from “francophone” Africa, as well as a listing of other relevant contacts. Another initiative that came from the meeting was the creation of the “Images de femmes” (Images of Women) project, from which emerged the prize “Images cle femmes” offered by ACCT and presented during the annual Vues d’Afrique.

Women

Since the African

in

Cinema Movement began

the

in

1991,

regional bureaus and national associations have sprung up throughout the continent. African in

November

Women

in

Film and Video (AWIFAV) was created

1992, of which African

Section, created

in

1993,

is

an

Women

affiliate.

in

Film and Video

A Gabonese national

—Kenya

bureau of the

Women in the Image Industry was created in 1995, while the Association of Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe was formed in Pan-African

l

Jnion of

September 1996. of

One of

the results of the restructuring of the pan-African organization

women

in

the cinema was the creation of regional bureaus, including

Diaspora sections

in

London and

There

Paris.

a

is

general coordinator

and there are coordinators for the various regions in and Africa: Northern Africa Region, Western Africa Region, South-

for the continent

outside of

ern Africa Region, Central Africa Region, Eastern Africa Region, Diaspora France, and Diaspora Great Britain.

Anne Mungai

(Kenya)' brought out

with trying to organize within such

and traveling. Even

riers

Eastern Africa, has been

to a

some of

the problems that

notably language bar-

a large scope,

come together

formidable task.

related to allotting limited funding for hold,

and keeping contact with other

latter

is

come

regionally,

Some

among women

in

of the obstacles are

making films, maintaining a house-

women

in

the region.

Often the

the lowest priority. Despite the problems and difficulties of orga-

among women in the cinema, the emergence of the movement has allowed women of the image to better know each other and attain higher nizing

visibility.

Towards Is

a

Woman-Defined Criticism

there an African woman-defined critique of the image, of filmmaking

practices, of

cinema

in

general?

What are

the tenets, what are the canons?

While there is no formal infrastructure in terms of a specialized group of women w ho name their work or discourse as film criticism, each woman in this collection, as well as the

many other women

in the diverse areas

the visual media in Africa, has distinctive impressions about

of

women and 5

Sisters of the Screen

the image and their role as maker, interpreter, cultural producer and reader in

general, so that critiquing the image

is

integrated

in their

filmmaking

practices or in their interpretation of a character as an actor.

the other hand, there have been other instances where the broad issues of African women in the media as well as the visual representation of African women have been addressed. As early as 1978, research was

On

media during a study visit by journalists Elma Lititia Anani (Sierra Leone), Alkaly Miriama Keita (Niger), and Awatef Abdel Rahman (Egypt), held at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 24-30 September 1978.'° conducted on African

The purpose and

women

in the

goals of the study were as follows:

women and the mass media in Africa; this study is the first to analyze women s image in the media. It also documents the small number of women

To

in

date, virtually

no research has been carried out on

policy-making positions

ily affects

in the

African media, which necessar-

the media’s portrayal of

in Africa are in their infancy,

it is

women. Since hoped

the

mass media

that the implications of

women’s current media image will be carefully considered by media policy makers, with a view to establishing future media policies which will foster women’s participation in the development of Africa.

While women

in

the visual media have

made great

strides in the 1980s

and 1990s, the issues brought out in the 1978 study continue to be relevant. They echo the sentiments of a majority of women in the cinema regarding their role as image-makers and visual journalists and the contributions that they

want

to

make:

Women

have an especially important role to play

ment of

Africa.

either

By

its

portrayal of

women,

impede or foster women’s integration

process.

If

women

the in

in

the develop-

mass media can the development

are portrayed only in traditional roles in the

media, society’s attitudes and women’s expectations for themselves will necessarily

be confined to these roles.

the media’s image of

women

On

reflects the full

the other hand,

range of contribu-

women are capable of making to society, societal towards women will be correspondingly broadened."

tions

In

many ways

tremendous power that visual media has had and continhave on African societies, rather than the lack of progress towards

reaching the objectives set forth. 6

attitudes

these past reflections, which often mirror the present, are

indicative of the

ues to

if

Introduction

On

the other hand, while there

lias

been improvement

women, there continues

representation of

women

the visual

in

to be stereotypical, negative,

worsened in some cases. Sarah Maldoror, veteran filmmaker, who came to cinema in the late sixties, laments t lie gratuitous portrayal of nude African women in today’s films. At the same time, African actresses addressing this issue almost a decade ago questioned t lie use of nudity, specifically in the film Usages de femmes and harmful portrayals

of

that have

by Desire Ecare. 12 In contrast to those

male filmmakers who have used the woman’s body and nudity for the sake of nudity, Safi Faye (Senegal)

mere objectification and Fanta Nacro (Burkina Faso) are, they insist, presenting a realistic image of women’s sensuality and sexual expression. Safi Faye states that her portrayal of women’s sensuality in Mossane echoes her own experi-

for

ences:

I

more or

less

Senegal and is

for

me,

a

told.

my

childhood girlfriends

in

wanted to tell it as such. This film that have made, song to women. The things that find so beautiful, I

I

I

the things that

been

experienced that with

have

I

And

lived, that

then,

I

made

I

have experienced or that

have

I

my

these images according to

was more or less like that. We always had an older girlfriend who was married before us and it was she who explained to the others what went on. One does not go into marriage naive and unaware. No, one knows, but without vision. ..My sexual education

having actually experienced

13

it

.

PukNini would be hypocritical to herself and her audience. Zara Mahamat Yacoub was condemned by the Islamic Council of Chad for having shown the genitals of a young girl during an excision operation in her film Dilemme au jeminine. Her response was. Fanta Nacro

If

felt that

not to show the sensually explicit scene

would not have shown this part of did not show the female body for the pleasure of show-

excision had not existed,

the body.

ing

it,

I

I

but within a specific context. T here

tinction.

in

is

an important dis-

,+

These experiences of makers and actors reveal that they are fully aware the implications of the presentation of certain images and will perceive

them.

how

of

the viewer

In certain instances they take risks and experience

the consequences of their choice to reveal the reality and gravity of a situation.

In the varying and diverse experiences that

women

have had

7

Sisters of the Screen

with the image, there

is

a consensus, that

women’s experiences and

their

perceptions of reality are essential. African

women

in all

areas of the visual media are addressing the issue

of the visual representation of

women and

are asking themselves

role they play in the projection of positive images. Like

leagues istic

in

Anne Mungai women:

the cinema,

images of

When sion

I

finally started

programs

in

going

her role

feels that

to the

most

is

woman

televi-

appeared

she played a very weak character. She was always a cook,

vant to somebody,

but

were always of an African

how does

I’ve

I

saw on the screen and on

woman

in trouble.

is

what motivated me.

seen her in trouble, I’ve watched

We

my

I

said yes,

That was never

she overcome these problems?

shown... I think that

a ser-

mistress to somebody, a slave, she’s crying,

So the images that

she’s pregnant.

television

a

her col-

of

to present real-

cinemas and watching

Kenya, each time an African

what

I’ve

my

seen

father die, there

mother,

was

my

grown up and admire the way she did it. then started wishing that saw more films with strong African women characters; and that is the role want to want to fill play. And that is why I say that there is that gap, and mother with

six children.

are

all

I

I

I

I

I

it

in

my

films.

15

Wanjiru Kinyanjui (Kenya) feels that in taking part in film criticism, African women “can correct images of themselves and even their surroundings.” She likes to see an African woman portrayed as a person of independent mind, not passive and submissive. As a filmmaker, she is interested in giving her the chance to define her

Actresses are also taking the lead

own

in insisting

place.

on

positive, interesting,

and strong characters to interpret. Ai Keita-Yara (Burkina Faso) expressed a special affinity with her character, the legendary Queen Sarraounia. While M’Bissine Therese Diop (Senegal) has been generally

pleased with her roles, she also suggests that male filmmakers present

important characters for black insignificant ones. feel like

“G liana’s

women

to play

Alexandra Duah (Ghana)

international actress

who

and not always the small,

a veteran actor, has

come

to

has found herself redundant.”

Despite her disappointments, she emphasizes

how important

to accept scripts that are educative

it is

for her

and not demeaning or demoralizing to women. Naky Sy Savane (Ivory Coast) asserts that actresses should even go to the point that they actually suggest certain roles to filmmakers, perhaps even roles that they themselves create.

8

Introductioh

Masepeke Sekhukhuni (South cess of filmmaking

learn

how

women must adequately this medium. One impor-

has been defined by men,

itself

womanhood

to express their

tant step in this process

Africa) suggests that because the pro-

is

within

to demystify filmmaking,

which she thinks has

As director of the Newtown Film and TeleSchool, Sekhukhuni encounters many women who are intimidated

also been mystified by men.

vision

by the filmmaking environment, including heavy cameras and other equip-

ment.

Her response

and other objects

women is to remember those heavy buckets women carry on their heads and are able to man-

to the

that

age. In applying this idea to the

filmmaking environment, they

women

as makers, interpreters,

in their

know

Applying their

specific

filmmaking, and as actors, African

women

that “they have the energy, they have the power!

experiences as

will

and readers of the image are also shaping a woman-

defined criticism.

Women of The

A Meeting

Africa and the Diaspora:

events of the

FESPACO

women

ited by several

as

it

which has yet

It

to be resolved.

was an emotionally charged experience

16 ,

In other words, there has never been an

attempt to work out the differences that vealed nor has there been an

women are reviswomen who attended

1991 meeting of African

relates to the diasporan

but were later asked to leave.

Place

official

this

meeting so apparently

meeting between

re-

women makers

of

Africa and the Diaspora.

While Sarah Maldoror (Guadeloupe) and

Shirikiana Aina

(USA) ex-

pressed severe disappointment about the events that took place, Zeinabu irene Davis

(USA

17 )

said that

though

it

was

a painful experience, in retro-

spect she understood the importance of African

themselves. She brought out

some important

ences and similarities between in

women

women meeting among

points regarding the differ-

of Africa and the African Diaspora

cinema.

On

the other hand, while Aina agrees that there are differences that

distinguish the needs of diasporan and African unification of

that

women

women, she

feels that the

of African descent should have been a priority at

moment: yes,

it is

Hut what

important for continental is

women

to meet, very critical.

the urgency that requires the de-unification of what

we have here?

Aminata Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso) and Chantal Bagilishya (Rwanda)

dis-

cuss the events leading to the misunderstanding and attempt to explain 9

Sisters of the Screen

women to leave. hey both describe the women meet together among themselves

the decision to ask the diasporan

importance of having African

I

met before inviting others, since this was the first time they had ever Africans and as a group. They felt that because of the difference between

first

diasporans

it

was necessary

women on the continent. Some of the differences

to

work through

their

own agenda as

Afi ican

Zeinabu irene Davis pointed out were the obvious issues around access to equipment and training. She stated the most possibility of going to film schools, which is rare or non-existent in that

African countries. She also suggested the availability of low-cost equipment use and training at public access stations in the L hiited States. On the other hand, Davis finds that African

women

have more power

in the

area of television broadcasting than do diasporans in the United States. Women from the United States as producers and directors in television are rare, while there

is

an increasing number of

women

in

those positions

in Africa.

Aminata Ouedraogo focuses the

differences

between

women

of Africa

and the Diaspora on issues and themes. She felt that while diasporan women may focus on issues of aesthetics, body image and corporeality, African women in the cinema must deal with issues around education, health, housing,

and nutrition. In general, Aminata Ouedraogo empha-

sized the importance of African

women coming

together to get to

know

each other and express their interests and needs. Mahen Bonetti, executive director of African Film Festival, Inc. based in New "\ork ( ity, notes distinctions as well:

I

find that the subjects that the African

women

deal with are dif-

from those of African-American women’s films, much less Hollywood. Here in the States, one doesn’t expect to see things

ferent

like

polygamy, female genital mutilation, or about

women

in

1

an-

zania crushing stones.

Shirikiana Aina agrees with Davis that African Americans do not have an organized film body within the African festival circuit where they can

and voice their interests and concerns. Aina notes that while there is a prize for the African Diaspora at FESPACO, the Paul Robeson Prize, it is not Diaspora groups that pay for it, which points to the lack of real power. Davis voiced the need for a film advocacy body

promote

their films

within the filmmaking arena that acts as a support network for indepen-

dent African and Diaspora cinema. Aina,

who works

with her filmmaker/

husband Haile Gerima from Ethiopia, corroborates Davis emphasis on the importance of a film advocacy network. 10

INTRODUCTION

The filmmaking experiences of African diasporan Gloria Rolando from Cuba are much closer to those of women on the continent than to those of While she shares the common

diasporans from the United States.

diasporan desire to reflect African roots

filmmaking

many of

m Cuba make

of the

in

her work, the conditions for

her task particularly formidable. She expresses

same obstacles

funding and equipment,

that African

women

such as the lack

indicate,

among others.

Diasporan Fran^oise Pfaff (Guadeloupe/France)

is

well

known among

anglophone readers of African cinema history and criticism especially. However, in the collection she presents perhaps a less known aspect of herself.

Of mixed-raced

roots in the black

heritage, she

community

in

came

to the

United States to find

emerged as an place where she also went in search

the United States and

important scholar of African cinema,

a

of her roots.

As Africans from

the continent traverse frontiers and migrate to ex-

tra-African locations, issues of the “Diaspora” have

Bonetti (Sierra Leone) brings out this point

in

become

larger.

Mahen

her discussion about

first-

While there has been much more focus on Africans migrating to European metropoles in order to work and function as filmmakers, they are also migrating to North America, both to Canada and the United States. In this collection, there is a number of women who are based in North America, particularly in the United States: Mahen Bonetti (Sierra Leone), Lucy Gebre-Egziabher (Ethiopia), Salem Mekuria (Ethiopia), Thembi Mtshali (South Africa), Zanele Mthembu (South Africa), and Wabei Siyolwe (Zambia); and in Canada: C ilia Sawadogo (Burkina Faso) and Najwa Tlili (Tunisia). Gyasiwa Ansah (Ghana) was generation-born “hybrids.”

also a Film student in

New

York.

Some

other

women who

studied in the

United States are Bridget Pickering (Namibia) and Palesa Letlaka-Ngozi (South Africa). based

the United States, as

in

Onwurah

recently spent time at

in-residence. ited the

They

M’mbugu-Schelling (Tanzania) is also well as Assia Djebar (Algeria). Ngozi a US. university as a visiting filmmaker-

Presently, Flora

Fhe conversations

will reveal other

women who

have vis-

United States or have had other contacts with U.S. diasporans.

realize that the

communities of people of African descent

in

the

United States are eager to embrace Africa and connect. Mahen Bonetti was aware of this as she created the African Film Festival based in New' York.

Cornelius

Moore of

California Newsreel realized this as the Li-

brary of African Cinema was added to the collection.

Gerima and

Certainly, Haile

Shirikiana Aina realized this as they began the successful

commercial run of Sankofa.

Sisters of the Screen

Diasporan Sarah Maldoror, an exemplary model interconnecting

of African /Diaspo ran

filmmaking, started the tradition

in

at the

inception of

African cinema. Others are continuing the process: Safi Faye, Elsie Haas, femme peintre et cineas ted’ Haiti, 985 a portrait of Haitian filmmaker Elsie 1 .

,

Salem Mekuria, As I Remember It: A Portrait oj Dorothy West 1985 a portrait of Harlem Renaissance writer; Euzhan Palcy (Martinique), A Dry White Season, 1989 set in Zimbabwe; Shirikiana Aina, Through the Door of No Return, 1997 set in Ghana. Coming full circle while continuing the tradition, more than thirty years after Sarah Maldoror began her filmmaking journey in Africa, Anne-Laure Folly (Togo) saw the importance I

laas;

,

,

,

,

of tracing the footsteps of her delutopie, 1998

life

and work,

in

Sarah Maldoror ou

la nostalgie

.



Boundaries are blurring, borders are extending, and as Ngozi Onwurah asserts there must be differences made between African women working in and out of Africa. While there was a great deal of focus on African/Diasporan differences in 1991 perhaps now, almost a decade later,



,

the conversation extends

and practices of

spaces,

its

frontiers to

women

comprehend the many

places,

of Africa and the image.

Through African Women’s Eyes Twenty-one years after writing her first novel, Assia Djebar (Algeria) made her first film, La Nouba desfemmes du mont Chenoua in 1978 and four ,

years later her second film

asked

why she made I

realized that

age:

La Zerda Djebar

films,

woman was

is

cided then, that

she I

is

Djebar

.

When

forbidden any relationship to the im-

veiled,

taken, she does not

own

and then, only with one

would make of

it

either.

my camera

eye.

I

de-

this eye of the veiled

18 .

Visualizing through the lens of ries,

chants de I’oubli, in 1982

shut away, she looks on the inside. She can only look

at the outside if

woman

les

said:

While her image cannot be

Since she

ou

lifted

women’s experiences,

feelings,

and histo-

the veil that obscured their vision, also allowing others

through women’s

At the beginning of Anne-Laure Eolly’s ogo) film, journalist Monique Ilboudo cites a poem by a Burkinabe ( woman that says: A respectable woman should learn from her husband. She should not read. She should not have her eyes open. Eolly titles her to see

eyes.

l

film

Women -with Open Eyes,

women

in

thus opening to view the diverse conditions of

various African societies.

While some women remain blinded

by the traditions that oppress them, other 12

women move

forward with

Introduction

open eyes to improve their lives and that of their societies. Fanta Nacro’s film, lhik Nini, which means «open your eyes, be vigilant» in More, attempts to encourage women to go forward and move ahead toward finding a solution to their problem rather than stand immobilized and be pessimistic.

What,

then,

is

an African woman’s vision, her gaze, her way of seeing

becomes the vehicle for expressing wonian/women’s experiences and showing her vision of the world, many African women transcend geographies and locations, boundaries are blurred, their positionality goes beyond nationality

and visualizing? As the camera becomes her

and country. The themes and subjects of periences, the search for identity, the

eye, as the lens

their films reflect personal ex-

demands

of financiers, as well as the

self-imposed duty to teach, to reveal injustices, and to construct positive

women and

images of

African society

in

The voices in this colmany issues of cinema in

general.

lection provide an “alternative discourse” to the

general as well as African filmmaking practices that have been discussed

and theorized. In multiple

voices, Sisters

of

the Screen begins the

conversa-

tion.

Notes 1.

It is

also significant to note that one of the founding

members of FTSPACO

and the president of the organizing committee of the first festival in 1 969 was Burkinabe Alimata Salembere, who at the time was a television director at the

Burkinabe television. Radiodiffusion Television Voltaique (RTV). She

also served as General Secretary of

overseeing the 8th 2.

FTSPACO

Andre-Marie Pouya, “ Therese Amina September 1989, p. 44.

in

FTSPACO

from 1982

to 1984, thus

1983.

Sita-Bella parle de la presse et de felegance,”

,

3.

4.

5.

ALA

Bulletin (African Literature Association),

Summer

1996,

p. 10.

Her companion of many years was Angolan writer Mario de Andrade, one of the leaders of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Frangoise Pfaff, Twenty-five Black African Filmmakers. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1988), p. 205.

6.

While my

statistics are

may be used

to

based on

a

filmography that

is

not exhaustive, they

suggest tendencies and the evolution of African

women

filmmaking practice. 7.

Claire Andrade-Watkins, “African

emas of

the.

Black Diaspora,

versity Press, 1995), 8.

p.

ed.,

Women

Directors at Fespaco,”

Michael T. Martin (Detroit:

Wayne

in

Cin-

State Uni-

150.

Assiatou Bah Diallo, “Les femmes

a la

recherche d’un nouveau souffle,” Amina

,

13

Sisters of the Screen

May

1991.

9.

Interview by author not included

10.

If Omen

in collection.

and the Mass Media in Africa

:

Cases Studies of Sierra Leone, the Niger and

Egypt by Elma Lititia Anani, Alkaly Miriama Keita, Awatef Abdel Rahman. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa, 1981. Research Series, African tary

Fund

I

raining and Research Centre for

Women. Other

United Nations Decade for

for the

Women/ Volun-

clude: Association des professionnelles africaines de la

studies in-

communication

(APAC), Femmes, developpement, communication: quelles perspectives pour Nairobi 1985 ? (Proceedings from the seminar organized by BREDA, Dakar, Senegal), 1-10 October 1984; and Association of African

Women

Development (AAWORD), Women and the Media

in Africa,

Series,

No.

for Research

and

Occasional Paper

Dakar, 1992.

6,

omen and the Mass Media in Africa: Cases Studies of Sierra Leone, the Niger and Egypt by Elma Lititia Anani, Alkaly Miriama Keita, Awatef Abdel Rahman.

11.

J!

The United Nations Economic Commission

for Africa,

Addis Ababa, 1981.

Research Series, African 1 raining and Research Centre for Women/Voluntary Fund for the United Nations Decade for Women. See Quand la nudite chasse le beau” (When nudity chases away beauty),

12.

Amina.

May

1991.

13.

Interview by author not included

14.

Amina September

in collection.

1996. Interview with Zara

,

Mahamat Yacoub,

p. 49.

Interview by author not included in collection. 16. See Claire Andrade- Watkins, “African Women Directors at Fespaco,” Cinemas of the Black Diaspora ed. Mark T. Martin, 1995 and Assiatou Bah Diallo, 15.

Les femmes

17.

recherche d un nouveau souffle,” Amina Interview by author not included in collection.

18.

Je

me

suis dit

image, rnais regarde

l

que

elle

la

femme

nen

est

tie

etait interdite d’image:

pas proprietaire non

inteneur, mais elle

voilee et quelle

tie

regarde que d’un

tie

1991

oeil.

Je

.

peut pas lui prendre son

Du fait

quelle

est cloitree, elle si elle est

me suis done dit quefallaisfaire de. ma

C ited in Litterature et

cinema

eti

Afrique

Ousmane Sembene et Assia Djebar, edited by Sada Niang (Paris: Iarmattan, 1996), from Ghila Benesty-Sroka, “La Langue et Fexil”, La Pa-

francophone,

role meteque, 2

14

plus.

on

,

pent pas regarder Vexterieur, ou seulement