The legendary Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène, who once likened an African filmmaker to the “griot,” a sort of public historian cum social critic, engaged Africa’s precolonial past and its neocolonial present to visualize the possibility of a “transcendental subjectivity.” Departing from binary paradigms in which Africa is “traditional,” Europe “modern,” and imperialism “modernizing,” Sembène saw his society as a space imbued with plural modernities; his historical narratives not only contest the usual representations of colonial Africa but also demystify all fundamentalist historical narratives. Sembène’s films imagine alternatives to the recorded past and become a resource for continuous reinvention: Guelwaar inscribes a path out of divisive ethnoreligious essentialisms into a unified vox populi, and Ceddo uses the imagery and rhetoric of slavery to expose concentric layers of subordination, pointing to the instability of social identities and the possibility of subversion.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.