"Sites of Memory in Sub-Saharan African Cinema"

Sheila Petty, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and professor of media studies at University of Regina (Canada).

Monday, February 06, 2012
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
10367 Bunche Hall
10th floor
Los Angeles, CA 90095

This presentation will explore how the aesthetic of memory and the process of  “memorialisation” have been used across the corpus of African Cinema as a means of teaching, reconnecting, and revitalizing cultures still under duress from globalized externalities (Mhando and Tomaselli  2009, 34).  Although it may be observed that memory, in African Cinema, often serves as a site explicating trauma, it also opens debate on key cultural and/or historical issues aimed at creating an active spectatorship willing to explore solutions to social barriers (34).  As Martin Mhando and Keyan Tomaselli argue, the use of memory as an aesthetic in film “is often a reflection of a political project of sorts,” framing the film as “a parasocial event that fictionalizes discourse with the intention of extending the political community of audiences” (36).  Hence, although memory may evoke trauma, it also serves as a means of catalyzing change in society.

Given this context, the presentation will look briefly at how memory is evoked in six films from across the chronology of African cinema.  Early films, such as Med Hondo’s Soleil O (Mauritania/France 1969) and Ousmane Sembène’s Xala (Senegal 1975), both focusing on memory as orality, will demonstrate the wide range of expression memory is given.  In Flora Gomes’ The Blue Eyes of Yonta (Guinea-Bissau 1992) and Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Hyènes (Senegal 1992), memory functions as a site of personal trauma offering the possibility of change.  Finally, in Ousmane Sembène’s Faat Kiné (Senegal 2000) and Maria João Ganga’s Hollow City  (Angola 2004), memory becomes the means by which the consequences of violence on Africans and the failures of post-independence Africa are mapped.  By looking at these films as a continuous evolution of memory and memorialisation, it is possible to uncover linkages across the corpus of African cinema. 

Works Cited:  Mhando Martin and Keyan G. Tomaselli.  Winter 2009. “Film and Trauma: Africa Speaks to Itself through Truth and Reconciliation.”  Black Camera, Volume 1, Number 1:  30-50.

Sheila Petty is dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and professor of media studies at the University of Regina (Canada).  She has written extensively on issues of cultural representation, identity and nation in African and African diasporic screen media, and has curated film, television and digital media exhibitions for galleries across Canada.  She is author of Contact Zones: Memory, Origin and Discourses in Black Diasporic Cinema, Wayne State University Press, 2008.  She is co-editor (with Blandine Stefanson) of the forthcoming World Directory of Cinema: Africa (Intellect Books).  Her current research focuses on interpretive strategies for analyzing digital creative cultural practices and real-time decision making.  She is an adjunct scientist at TRLabs Regina and leader of an interdisciplinary research group and New Media Studio Laboratory spanning Computer Science, Engineering and Fine Arts.


Monday African Seminar Series (MAAS)

UCLA African Studies Center, Co-sponsored by the Mellon Postdoctural Program "Cultures in Transnational Perspectives."

Faculty Coordinators: Francoise Lionnet

MASS Winter 2012

What does African cinema contribute to a better understanding of global aesthetics and to film studies in general? What is specific about the field of African visual media and what are some of the new conceptual and interpretive issues that confront its scholars today? The series showcases the work of three critics who will take turn focusing on questions of memory and trauma (Sheila Petty), fantasy and science fiction (Jude Akudinobi), power, control, and biopolitics (Akin Adesokan).

The historical and the social, gender and the environment, and the serious new challenges posed to the poetic imagination by neoliberal authoritarianism are some of the topics that will be explored. This is a unique opportunity to learn more about established and emerging filmmakers, from Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Kenya, who draw from rich multilingual traditions and challenge viewers to rethink their relation to global genres.

Monday, February 6, 10367 Bunche Hall

“Sites of Memory in Sub-Saharan African Cinema”
Sheila Petty, University of Regina

Tuesday, February 21, 10383 Bunche Hall

"Expanding Horizons: Pumzi, Science Fiction and African Cinema"
Jude G. Akudinobi, UC Santa Barbara

Thursday, February, 23, 6275 Bunche Hall

Manthia Diawara, NYU

Monday, February 27, 10383 Bunche Hall

“Framing Biopolitics: Jo Ramaka's Cinema of Power”
Akinwumi Adesokan, Indiana University

Monday, March 12, 10383 Bunche Hall

Leelai Demoz, Filmmaker

Cost : Free and open to the public; pay-by-space and all-day parking ($11) available in lot 3.

For more information please contact:

UCLA African Studies CenterTel: 310-825-3686



Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, Co-sponsored by the Mellon Postdoctoral Program "Cultures in Transnational Perspective."