ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




The Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, regarded as one of the pioneers

of African cinema, died this weekend at his home in Dakar at the age of 84,

his friends and family said Sunday. He had been ill since December.




Films by Ousmane Sembene


Mandabi  / Xala


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Books by Francoise Pfaff


Focus on African Films / The Cinema of Ousmane Sembene, A Pioneer of African Film / Twenty-five Black African Filmmakers


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Ousmane Sembene, African cinema pioneer, dies

10 June 2007 DAKAR (AFP) – The Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, regarded as one of the pioneers of African cinema, died this weekend at his home in Dakar at the age of 84, his friends and family said Sunday. He had been ill since December. Born into a fisherman’s family in the southern region of Casamance in 1923 he moved to Dakar in the 1930s. He held a series of jobs in Africa and Europe, as a mechanic, carpenter and builder and was conscripted into the French army in World War II, subsequently becoming a labourer and docker. These experiences provided Sembene, a self-educated writer, with material for his literary and film works, in particular his books “The Black Docker”, “God’s Bits of Wood” and “The Money Order.” Realising that “pictures are more accessible than words” Sembene attended film school in Moscow before launching into what he called “fairground cinema.” “I can go to a village and show the film. Because everything can be filmed and transported to the most remote village in Africa,” he said in 2005. He began his film-making career in 1963 with “Borom sarret,” a short black and white production which tells the story of a poor cart-driver. In all he made some 10 films. His first long film, “The Black Girl from…” is seen as Africa’s first full-length feature. One of his last films “Moolade” was a denunciation of female genital mutilation and won him an award at the Cannes Film Festival. He won two prizes at the Venice Film Festival, in 1968 and in 1988. The first was for “The Money Order”, the second for “The Camp of Thiaroye” which recounts the violent repression by French troops of protests by Senegalese soldiers demanding their pay. He was also a prolific writer and a co-founder of the Panafrican festival of film and television of Ouagadougou held every two years. After African countries won independence he was among the first African artists to warn of the danger of excesses in the post-colonial era and to call for “a radical change in African policies.” Former Senegalese president Abdlu Diouf, now secretary general of the French-speaking club of states the Francophonie, said that Africa had lost “one its greatest filmmakers” and a “fervent defender of liberty and social justice.” A tribute from the Malian Culture Minister Cheick Oumar Sissoko, himself a filmmaker and a friend of Sembene, said that “African cinema has lost one of its lighthouses.” “The man only worked fully in Africa and for Africa,” he said. Sembene had “led Africa to understand its identity and build its cultural horizon.” Cheikh Ngaido Ba, president of the Senegalese directors’ association, said a “great master” had died. “For him the cinema was the best school to tell stories.” Sembene’s funeral was due to take place Monday.



Francoise Pfaff, professor of French and Francophone Studies at Howard University, has edited an in-depth analysis of Africa’s newest and least-known art form. This critical collection presents the aspirations and issues expressed in African films, their significance in world culture, and their enrichment of our intercultural heritage.

Dr. Pfaff is an internationally recognized expert on Francophone African cinema and the author of The Cinema of Ousmane Sembene, A Pioneer of African Film and Twenty-five Black African Filmmakers. Joining Dr. Pfaff in the presentation will be Dr. Maria Roof of Howard University, one of the contributors to Focus on African Films.

Copies of the author’s book will be on sale at a book signing following the program.

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Mandabi (The Money Order) Directed by Ousmane Sembene (Senegal, 1968)  

Director: Ousmane SembeneScreenplay: Ousmane SembeneCast: Mamadou Guye, Ynousse D’Diaye, Issa Niang, Serigne N’Diayes.

Modern Dakar is the setting for this comic yet heartbreaking story about Ibrahim Dieng, a faithful Moslem who lives there with his two wives and seven children. This simple man, although he has been out of work for four years, lives with dignity, until one day he receives a money order from his nephew living in Paris. This dubious windfall threatens to destroy the traditional fabric of his life. 90 minutes, in Wolof with English subtitles.

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Starring: Fatim Diagne, Makhouredia Gueye Director: Ousmane Sembene

It is the dawn of Senegal’s independence from France, but as the citizens celebrate in the streets we soon become aware that only the faces have changed. White money still controls the government. One official, Aboucader Beye, known by the title “El Hadji,” takes advantage of some of that money to marry his third wife, to the sorrow and chagrin of his first two wives and the resentment of his nationalist daughter. But he discovers on his wedding night that he has been struck with a “xala,” a curse of impotence. El Hadji goes to comic lengths to find the cause and remove the xala, resulting in a scathing satirical ending.


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The Cinema of Ousmane Sembene, A Pioneer of African Film  

By Francoise Pfaff

The films of Ousmane Sembene are powerful representations of the newly emerging black African cinema. In this interpretive study of his most significant films, Francoise Pfaff examines Sembene’s pioneering efforts over the last two decades. While focusing primarily on the realistic and symbolic levels of his works, the stylistic and technical aspects are also examined. Pfaff discusses the aesthetic, sociopolitical, and metaphysical values of Sembene’s oeuvre within its African context. His depiction of the tension between traditional and modern African life is explored. Pfaff includes film stills and excerpts from interviews with Sembene and other African filmmakers. She concludes with comments about Sembene’s contributions to our intercultural heritage.


“A comprehensive yet accessible introduction to black Africa’s foremost filmmaker, Ousmane Sembene. Indeed, Pfaff’s work should serve as the standard reference for some time. The author’s appraisal of Sembene is unabashedly flattering. Nevertheless, Pfaff’s impressive discussion of her subject’s genius thoroughly familiarizes the reader with a director and film area too frequently neglected in cinema studies.”

—Choice “Pfaff’s book is a major study of a major and very singular talent of the cinema.”

—Cahiers du Cinema

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Twenty-five Black African Filmmakers

By Francoise Pfaff

Black African motion pictures emerged in the 1960s, at the height of the sociopolitical upheavals experienced by many nations in the transition from colonialism to independence. Working mostly with minimal budgets and limited distribution opportunities, African filmmakers nevertheless have been consistent prizewinners at international film festivals. Francoise Pfaff introduces this developing artistic tradition to American readers with her informative and highly readable guide to the work of twenty-five Black African directors.


“The importance of this work lies in its examination of a ‘too often neglected area of cinema studies,’ Black African film. Pfaff looks in depth at a representative group of significant filmmakers, e.g. Moustapha Alassane, Safi Faye, and Ousmane Sembene. Each chapter provides a biography of the cineast, major themes of his/her films, a critical survey, filmography, and a bibliography that includes interviews of and film reviews/studies of each filmmaker. Pfaff, author of The Cinema of Ousmane Sembene, clearly demonstrates her expertise in Black African cinema. The entries are well researched. They are also extremely interesting because they include information taken from personal interviews with the filmmakers, and offer a variety of viewpoints. Stills of selected films, a general bibliography, and index complete this overall fine work.”

—Choice “An invaluable work on black African cinema has at last appeared in English. Francoise Pfaff’s volume synthesizes relevant information, devoid of hagiography, about twenty-five sub-Saharan African filmmakers, according a separate chapter–consisting of a biography, filmography, and thematic analyses of individual films–to each. Varying critical viewpoints are brought to bear from both African and non-African perspectives. The author has gone beyond translation and compilation to explore the decades of black African cinema within the historical context of the continent’s problematic emancipation. . . . Twenty-Five Black African Filmmakers offers enormous insight along with valuable data heretofore unavailable in English.”

—Cineaste “This much-needed book on a neglected area of world cinema presents a chapter on each of twenty-five directors whose films have significantly enriched African filmmaking and received substantial international exposure. Each chapter includes a biography, a breakdown of the films and major themes, a survey of criticism written by both African and non-African critics, filmography, and bibliographic information for further reading.”

—The Bloomsbury Review


posted 26 January 2005

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Marketing Ghana as a Mecca for the African-American Tourist—The Afro-American tourist market constitutes an important niche market. At the moment, the U.S.A is Ghana’s second highest tourist generating market with the U.K being the first. In 2003, some 27,000 tourists arrived in Ghana from the Americas. Approximately 10,000 were African-Americans. Also, about a thousand are living and working in Accra. The African-American tourist market is Ghana’s niche market because it has the greatest growth potential in terms of arrivals and receipts. This is because the African-American tourist of today is more interested in exploring his/her cultural and historical heritage; the very products that Ghana offers. Also, they have a $300 billion spending power and spend 98% of their household income. The total income of this segment of the American population is the largest of all the ethnic groups at $485 and projected to reach $1.01 trillion by 2010. In a 2000 Gallup poll commissioned by the National Summit on Africa, 73% of African-Americans were interested in learning more about Africa.—


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Strange Fruit Lynching Report / Anniversary of a Lynching

  Willie McGhee Lynching  / My Grandfather’s Execution

Dr. Robert Lee Interview / African American dentist in Ghana

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Bob Marley— Exodus

Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the ska, rocksteady and reggae bands The Wailers (19641974) and Bob Marley & the Wailers (19741981). Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited for helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement (of which he was a committed member), to a worldwide audience.



Exodus: movement of jah people! oh-oh-oh, yea-eah! Men and people will fight ya down (tell me why!) When ya see jah light. (ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) Let me tell you if youre not wrong; (then, why? ) Everything is all right. So we gonna walk – all right! – through de roads of creation: We the generation (tell me why!) (trod through great tribulation) trod through great tribulation. Exodus, all right! movement of jah people! Oh, yeah! o-oo, yeah! all right! Exodus: movement of jah people! oh, yeah! Yeah-yeah-yeah, well! Uh! open your eyes and look within: Are you satisfied (with the life youre living)? uh! We know where were going, uh! We know where were from. Were leaving babylon, Were going to our father land. 2, 3, 4: exodus: movement of jah people! oh, yeah! (movement of jah people!) send us another brother moses! (movement of jah people!) from across the red sea! (movement of jah people!) send us another brother moses! (movement of jah people!) from across the red sea! Movement of jah people! Exodus, all right! oo-oo-ooh! oo-ooh! Movement of jah people! oh, yeah! Exodus! Exodus! all right! Exodus! now, now, now, now! Exodus! Exodus! oh, yea-ea-ea-ea-ea-ea-eah! Exodus! Exodus! all right! Exodus! uh-uh-uh-uh! Move! move! move! move! move! move! Open your eyes and look within: Are you satisfied with the life youre living? We know where were going; We know where were from. Were leaving babylon, yall! Were going to our fathers land. Exodus, all right! movement of jah people! Exodus: movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Move! move! move! move! move! move! move! Jah come to break downpression, Rule equality, Wipe away transgression, Set the captives free. Exodus, all right, all right! Movement of jah people! oh, yeah! Exodus: movement of jah people! oh, now, now, now, now! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Move! move! move! move! move! move! uh-uh-uh-uh! Move(ment of jah people)! Move(ment of jah people)! Move(ment of jah people)! Move(ment of jah people)! movement of jah people! Move(ment of jah people)! Move(ment of jah people)! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people!


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 Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities

By  Godfrey Mwakikagile

 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: National Academic Press, 2005) 302 pages

Chapter Four: The Attitude of Africans Towards African Americans

Chapter Six: Misconceptions About Each Other


The Joseph Project: Ghana Reaches Out to the Diaspora

Gateway to West Africa ? by Stacey Barney

Should the African Diaspora have free-visa access to Africa?

For African-Americans In Ghana, the Grass Isn’t Always Greener

African-American Association of Ghana Condemn WSJ

Marketing Ghana As A Mecca For The African-American Tourist

A Rejoinder to The WSJ Article “Tangled Roots”

 Presidents Bill Clinton and Jerry John Rawlings February 24, 1999

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Chiefs in Cape Coast, Ghana  /  Grand Durbar Parade

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Dentist Dr. Robert Lee

Championed African-American Community in Ghana

In the mid-1950s, Dr. Robert Lee, a dentist from South Carolina, moved to Ghana to escape racism in the south. Over the next half century, Lee became a fixture in the African-American community in the West African country. Dr. Lee died on Monday, July 5th at the age of 90. But few here in his home state, or in the States at all, knew of his work. But in Ghana, he made a name for himself. Dr. Robert Lee, trained as a dentist, moved to Accra in the mid-1950s. Over the past half century, Lee became a fixture in the black American ex-patriot community in Ghana. NPR

Host Michel Martin talks to NPR West African correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton about his life and legacy. Dr. Robert Lee NPR Interview

Dentist Championed African-American Community In Ghana

Dr Robert Lee passes on


Dr. Robert Lee (right) in 2009 with Kwame Zulu Shabazz

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The State of African Education (April 200)

Attack On Africans Writing Their Own History Part 1 of 7

Dr Asa Hilliard III speaks on the assault of academia on Africans writing and accounting for their own history.

Dr Hilliard is A teacher, psychologist, and historian.

Part 2 of 7  /  Part 3 of 7  / Part 4 of 7  / Part 5 of 7 / Part 6 of 7  /  Part 7 of 7

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  /  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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Basil Davidson’s  “Africa Series”

 Different But Equal  /  Mastering A Continent  /  Caravans of Gold  / The King and the City / The Bible and The Gun

West Africa Before the Colonial Era: A History to 1850

By Basil Davidson



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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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updated 5 November 2007 




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Related files:  Books on African Film  African Films on DVD  Ousmane Sembene, dies   African Studies Film Festival Program at Morgan