History in Ousmane Sembène's Guelwaar and Ceddo
Abstract

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.


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