The University of Iowa

“The Figure of Griot in Ousmane Sembene’s Cinema” Nov. 8

November 3rd, 2010

Presenter: Moussa Fall (French and Italian)
Date/Time: Monday, Nov. 8, 12-1 p.m.
Location: 1117 University Capitol Centre

My presentation proposes to analyze the figures of griot in Ousmane Sembène’s Films. The central point of my talk is that the griot should be contextualized as a historical figure that interprets memory and influences the perception of the past rather than as a mere literary and cinematic device. Current scholarship on Sembène privileges the Western interpretation of the griot, that is, the narrative aspect–the storyteller–over the more nuanced position the griot traditionally holds in West African societies.

I will begin with an overview of the figures of the griot in literature and cinema to show what shapes Sembène’s uses of the griot. Second, I will re-examine Sembène’s construction of the griot’s figures from the vital role played by history in Sembène. Finally I will raise the question of gender in Sembène’s of the figures of the griot since there is not physical representation of the female figure of the griot.

My investigation will be based on Black Girl, Emitai, Ceddo, Guelwaar and Camp Thiaroye, five major films of Sembène in which the representation of history is present from beginning to end.