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Sembene Ousmane Essay

3298 words - 13 pages

Sembene Ousmane:Sembene or "Ousmane Sembene", hailed as the most prolific writer and perhaps the father of African film, was Born in 1923 in Casamance, southern Senegal, where his fisherman father had migrated from Dakar. He was expelled from school in 1936 for undiscipline, and his formal education never went beyond middle school, after which he worked as an apprentice mechanic and a bricklayer. Although he was denied an opportunity of a formal education, Sembene developed a love for reading, mostly comics and discovered cinema in the segregated movie houses of Dakar. He spent his days at work as a manual laborer and his evenings either reading, watching movies or, along with his neighborhood age mates, attending evenings of storytelling, wrestling, and other "traditional" Senegalese cultural events.As a French citizen, in 1944, like many young Africans of his generation, he was called on active duty to liberate France from German. Upon being discharged in 1946 at the end of the war, he came back to Dakar in the midst of charged social and political activism for social justice and political change. That same year, for the first time, he took membership in the construction workers' trade union and witnessed the first general workers' strike that paralyzed the colonial economy for a month. He attended many seminars and workshops on Marxism, took membership in the French communist party in 1950, and in Mourap (Movement against racism, anti Semitism and peace) in 1951, a political organization born of the resistence movement during WWII.During those Marseilles years, he participated in protest movements against the colonial war in Indochina (1953), the Korean war (1950-1953), he also openly supported the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in its struggle for independence from France (1954-1962 among others. Open to and dreaming of the universal freedom and brotherhood mirrored by communist ideology, Ousmane Sembene also worked to educate and liberate the community of mostly illiterate and "apolitical" African workers shipwrecked at the margins of French society.Sembene is the author of 10 books, many of which have been translated into English - notably Black Docker and God's Bits of Wood - and he has made 11 films, most of them shown at western film festivals. Despite the vast literature he has produced, Sembene is perhaps known more for films and this has a reason. Sembene's use of cinema is nothing but a compromise gesture to bring home what the widespread illiteracy in the continent would not allow him to accomplish in his literary work. It is through literature (or rather, it is because he failed to communicate with African "masses" through literature) that Sembene came to film making, as a last resort. Indeed, most of his film works (except Xala, 1973, and Guelwaar, 1993) are adaptations of earlier novels or short stories. Xala and Guelwaar are rather a re-writing of the original film script's political, social, and cultural...

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