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Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa



Pan-Africanism: Adapting African Stories/Histories from Text to Screen

Date: 25-26 February 2013 Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

CODESRIA, the African Guild of Filmmakers and the Pan African Film & Television Festival (FESPACO)

Pan-Africanism: Adapting African Stories/Histories from Text to Screen

International Workshop, to be held within the framework of the 23rd FESPACO
25-26 February 2013
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), in partnership with la Guilde Africaine des Réalisateurs et Producteurs and the Pan African Film & Television Festival (FESPACO), is pleased to announce a two-day workshop on “Pan-Africanism: Adapting Africa Stories/Histories from Text to Screen” which will be held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on the 25th and 26th of February 2013. FESPACO is a bi-annual event which started in 1969 to promote the development of the African film industry by providing an avenue to reflect on, showcase and celebrate achievements in the industry, thereby contributing African voices and perspectives to the global film and cinema movement.

The workshop is part of the activities marking the 23rd edition of FESPACO, coming up between 22 February and 2 March 2013, under the theme “African Cinema and Public Policy in Africa”.

This workshop is part of a global CODESRIA Programme on Humanities that aims at promoting significant new directions in research and creative excellence in an important but often neglected area – the African Humanities – especially in their interconnection with the social sciences in critical issues of fundamental importance to cultural promotion and dissemination. Within the framework of this programme, CODESRIA has developed a tradition of organizing, during FESPACO, forums for reflections on film making and the cinema in Africa. For CODESRIA in particular, the 2013 workshop is significant as part of the Council’s 40th Anniversary celebrations.

Historically, it is possible to argue that films based on the questions of ‘nation-building’ dominated the first phase of African cinema. The filmmakers organized themselves into a movement called the Fédération Panafricaine des Cinéastes (FEPACI) – the Panafrican Federation of Filmmakers – and decided to adopt, for the language of their films, Frantz Fanon’s thesis – “There is no culture but national culture” – meaning that, to recover the African image from the stereotypes of Hollywood and properly establish a modern African culture and identity, the new African films must thematize and chronicle the liberation struggles of different nations, and denounce neocolonialism and corruption. Some of the important films of this first phase include Sembene Ousmane’s “The Money Order” and “Xala”, which dealt with neo-colonialism; and Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina’s “Chronicle of the Years of Amber”; Med Hondo’s “Saraouina”; Sara Maldoror’ “Sambizanga” and Flora Gomes’ “Mortu Nega”, on the decolonization wars; Souleymane Cisse’s “Baara” and “Finye” on dictatorship and corruption; and Kwaw Ansah’s “Heritage Africa” on the loss of cultural heritage and identity.

The films of liberation struggles, nation building and identity formation were followed, largely at the end of the Cold War, by an ‘author-cinema’ phase, which was characterized by its emphasis on individual philosophical and psychological dispositions toward the world, a film language that was turned inward to refer to itself only, and a cinema in which the style of the director was more important than the logic of the story in the film. Djibril Diop Mambety films – “Touki Bouki” and “Hyena” – are probably the best examples of ‘authorship’ in African cinema. But one could also include in this category such directors as Jean Pierre Bekolo, Haroun Mahat Saleh and Abderrhamane Sissako, to name only a few.

Finally, we have had the video boom in Nigeria, Ghana and everywhere else in Anglophone Africa. Arguably, the video films called “Nollywood” is the most important model here, with a capitalistic conception of cinema more akin to Bollywood and Hollywood, than to what one might call first and second cinemas in Africa. With its studios, use of stars and mainstreamed pidgin English, its producers and distributors who control the market, Nollywood has clearly created a new social imagination in Africa. From a technological standpoint, Nollywood is also compelling because of its output and proliferation of several thousand films, since its inception in the early 1990s. We can say that Nollywood is both modern and backward; good and bad for the African cinema; a purveyor of religious propaganda, and an advocate of individual freedom and choice – all at the same time.

These contradictory images of Africa in Nollywood and the other Anglophone videos bring us to the questions: What are the mass-mediated images of Africa today, in texts, music, film and videos? What is the role of African literature, film and video in the global art world today? Is the desire of African artists for a Pan-Africanist literature, cinema and video a capable of being achieved, in the same way that the first cinemas and literature had set nation-building as their main goal? What would the aesthetic language of Pan-Africanism, the art that sets as its aim the unification of Africa and its Diaspora, consist of today? Crucially, what is the role of adaptation from text to film, to video, to music and plastic arts, and vice versa, in the proliferation of such aesthetics? We could also see here an important role given to the documentary cinema and video genres, which could include archival materials on the history of key Pan-Africanist figures of the past and present.

We invite at the next FESPACO to explore some of these possibilities of Pan-Africanist narratives, aesthetics, theoretical and political configurations in literature, films and videos today.

Speakers will include: Wole Soyinka, Abiola Irele, Kofi Anyidoho, Lindiwe Dovey, Antonio Tomas, Dominica Dipio, Fatou Kande, Abdoulaye Niang, Mbye Cham, Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda, and Pocas Pascoal,

For further information, please contact:

Professor Manthia Diawara manthia.diawara@nyu.edu


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