Of Jasper and Coral. Representation of Women in Black African Francophone Cinema

by Maria Coletti

English abstract

English abstract of the book on women in black african cinema published by Marsilio in 2001, after a Phd Research in Roma Tre University (Rome, 1998-2000)

The analysis of the construction of female characters in African films offers a great range of themes and levels of interpretation, especially if compared to African oral tradition and literature, on one hand, and to African postcolonial history, on the other hand. Since its birth, African cinema has given particular importance to women as a symbol of the struggle of the entire continent in search for its freedom from Colonialism and trying to reappropriate its lost or damaged identity. In order to approach this subject at best, I chose to work on a well defined and homogeneous field and to concentrate my study on Sub-Saharan Francophone countries, where Black African cinema took his first steps, also due to the well known assimilationist French cultural politics.

I focused in particular on a corpus of films who consider female characters as their symbolic center, creating a sort of “petite histoire” of Sub-Saharan Francophone cinema, in a double way: diachronically and synchronically. From an historical point of view these films can mark different periods and trends, while from a narrative point of view they reveal different ways of confronting with female characters, through recurrent themes and symbols. Contextualizing these texts in the light of historical and social processes and of oral and literary heritage has helped me to reveal the adherence or, in the contrary, the opposition to traditional female archetypes.

The central aim of this study is to analyze the construction of the female characters in Sub-Saharan Francophone films from a gender point of view, utilizing some categories inspired to the Feminist Film Theory.

The first chapter of the book is dedicated to a panorama of the female typologies both in oral and in literary tradition – with a particular accent given to the “revolution” of Women Literature – in order to explore the different ways in which the social and cultural imagery is reflected in the filmed image.

In the second chapter, I question the 60 film chosen as the corpus of this study, looking through the three focal lenses of Voice, Body and Image, inspired to the reflections on race, gender and difference as theorized by feminist film theories.

The third chapter focuses on the textual analysis of 9 films, divided in three temporal groups from 1966 to 1999: a sort of journey in Sub-Saharan Francophone cinema not only from an esthetical point of view and as a reflection on gender, but also as an historical and political process.



Part one. From word to image

- Word, Woman, Society: female roles in the light of African cultural heritage
- Women representation in oral tradition and in literature
- Wives, mothers, daughters, sisters: orality and patriarchy
- From mothers to women: the revolution of female literature

- From oral and literary imagery to filmic image: women representation in films

- Family and Group
- Emancipation and History
- Women as victims, heroes, rebels
- Private and Public Spaces
- Social and Natural Spaces
- Ritual Space

Part two. Questioning female character

- Spoken word and Singing
- Silence
- Off-screen voices
- Life at work
- Dance and rituals
- Beauty as flagrancy of real
- In and out of frame
- Focusing and Identification
- Duration and Circularity

Part three. From context to text

Golden Years of Cooperation (1966-1975)
The Silence Triptyque
- La Noire de…, Ousmane Sembene, 1966
- Kodou, Ababacar Samb Makharam, 1971
- Den muso, Souleymane Cissé, 1975

“Daring to invent the future” (1976-1987)
Word and History
- Ceddo, Ousmane Sembene, 1976
- Fad’jal, Safi Faye, 1979
- Finye, Souleymane Cissé, 1982

“In the tempest of small festivals” (1988-1999)
Revolution Time
- Finzan, Cheikh Oumar Sissoko, 1989
- Hyènes, Djibril Diop Mambety, 1992
- Taafe fanga, Adama Drabo, 1997

1. La Noire de…, Ousmane Sembene, 1966
2. Mandabi/Le Mandat, Ousmane Sembene, 1968
3. Diankha-Bi/La Jeune fille, Mahama Johnson Traoré, 1969
4. Emitai, Ousmane Sembene, 1971
5. Kodou, Ababacar Samb-Makharam, 1971
6. Le Sang des parias, Mamadou Djim Kola, 1971
7. Le Wazzou polygame, Oumarou Ganda, 1971
8. FVVA – Femmes, Voitures, Villas, Argent, Moustapha Alassane, 1972
9. Les Tam-tams se sont tus, Philippe Mory, 1972
10. La Rançon d’une alliance, Sébastien Kamba, 1973
11. Touki Bouki /Le Voyage de la hyène, Djibril Diop Mambety, 1973
12. Xala, Ousmane Sembene, 1974
13. Den muso, Souleymane Cissé, 1975
14. Kaddu beykat, Safi Faye, 1975
15. Muna moto, Jean-Pierre Dikongue-Pipa, 1975
16. Pousse-Pousse, Daniel Kamwa, 1975
17. Ceddo, Ousmane Sembene, 1976
18. Mokho Dakan / Le Destin, Diambere Sega Coulibaly, 1976
19. Baara, Souleymane Cissé, 1977
20. Le Prix de la liberté, Jean-Pierre Dikongue-Pipa, 1978
21. Fad’jal, Safi Faye, 1979
22. An bè nò don, Issa Falaba Traoré, 1980
23. Notre fille, Daniel Kamwa, 1980
24. Sey Seyety / Un Homme, des femmes, Ben Diogaye Beye, 1980
25. Djeli, conte d’aujourd’hui, Kramo Lanciné Fadika
26. Jom ou l’histoire d’un peuple, Ababacar Samb Makharam, 1981
27. Finye, Souleymane Cissé, 1982
28. Wend kuuni, Gaston Kaboré, 1982
29. Dalokan / La Parole donnée, Moussa Dosso, 1983
30. Visages de femmes, Désiré Ecaré, 1985
31. Sarraounia, Med Hondo, 1986
32. Courte maladie / Badyaga, Jean-Pierre Dikongue-Pipa, 1987
33. Dunia, Pierre S. Yameogo, 1987
34. Histoire d’Orokia, Jacob Sou, 1987
35. Yeelen, Souleymane Cissé, 1987
36. Bal poussière, Henri Duparc, 1988
37. Finzan, Cheick Oumar Sissoko, 1989
38. Ma fille ne sera pas excisée, Boureima Nikiema, 1989
39. Mamy Wata, Moustapha Diop, 1989
40. Yaaba, Idrissa Ouedraogo, 1989
41. Tilai, Idrissa Ouedraogo, 1990
42. A Karim na Sala, Idrissa Ouedraogo, 1991
43. Obi, Idrissa Ouedraogo, 1991
44. Gito, l’ingrat, Léonce Ngabo, 1992
45. Guelwaar, Ousmane Sembene, 1992
46. Hyènes, Djibril Diop Mambety, 1992
47. Quartier Mozart, Jean-Pierre Bekolo, 1992
48. Rue Princesse, Henri Duparc, 1993
49. Wendemi / L’Enfant du bon dieu, Pierre S. Yameogo, 1993
50. Guimba, Cheick Oumar Sissoko, 1995
51. Haramuya / La Proscription, Drissa Touré, 1995
52. Keita ! L’héritage du griot, Dani Kouyaté, 1995
53. Waati, Souleymane Cissé, 1995
54. Mossane, Safi Faye, 1996
55. Tableau ferraille, Moussa Sene Absa, 1996
56. Buud Yam, Gaston Kaboré, 1997
57. Faraw ! Une mère des sables, Abdoulaye Ascofaré, 1997
58. Taafe Fanga, Adama Drabo, 1997
59. La Jumelle, Lanciné Diaby, 1998
60. La Petite vendeuse de soleil, Djibril Diop Mambety, 1999

Cast & CreditsDi diaspro e di corallo. L’immagine della donna nel cinema dell’Africa nera francofona, Marsilio (collana Biblioteca di Bianco & Nero. Saggistica), Venezia, 2001.

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