Call for Proposals: The Collections of Ousmane Sembène & Paulin S. Vieyra Workshop
We would like to invite academics (Graduate students, junior researchers, independent scholars, and university professors) to visit Indiana University’s collections on African cinemas (mainly Ousmane Sembène’s archives, held at the Lilly Library, and the Paulin S. Vieyra archives, held at the Black Film Center & Archive (BFCA), during a fixed period of approximately 10 days, in August 2024. Each attendee will use the workshop to conduct archival research for a chapter on these pioneers of African cinemas, to be finalized and submitted for December 2024. During this collective research stay, we will organize discussion tables, paper presentations, and film screenings to stress new perspectives on African Film studies and to share novel discoveries from the archives with specialists and the general public.
If Ousmane Sembène is to this day recognized as the “father” of African cinema, Paulin S. Vieyra, as his friend, mentor, and producer, was a key eyewitness and contributor to early sub-Saharan African cinema. Starting in 1954, Vieyra was a filmmaker, the first director of the Senegalese newsreel service, and a film critic and historian. During this period, Vieyra also directed a series of short films that documented the Independence of Senegal: Une nation est née (A Nation is Born, 1961) is a historical portrait depicting pre-colonial traditions and then European domination, before celebrating the wealth and collective strengths of the young Republic of Senegal; Lamb (1963) shows the social ramifications of traditional wrestling performances. Later in his career, he directed his only feature film, En résidence surveillée (Under House Arrest, 1981), which justifies the political choices of President Senghor and his administration. In his role as an administrator within the nascent African film industry, Vieyra helped young French-speaking African filmmakers to produce their first movies, advocating for them at film festivals in Russia, France, Burkina Faso, and Tunisia. Additionally, he wrote articles to promote African cinema and was a leader in organizing the Fédération panafricaine des cinéastes (FEPACI), using his political connections to procure funding for film production and distribution. Near the end of his life in the 1980s, Vieyra earned a Ph.D. (under the supervision of Jean Rouch) and became Professor of Film Studies at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar (UCAD).
Writer and filmmaker Ousmane Sembène (1923-2007) drew on his experiences as the son of a Lébou fisherman in Casamance, in the French colonial army and as a docker in Marseille in order to stage colonial injustices. A well-known novelist, he sought in the early 1960s to reach an audience beyond the Westernized elites. Understanding film to be a privileged medium for this access, he trained in Moscow (Berty 2019). In 1962, Sembène directed his first short film Borom Sarret. Then he adapted one of his short stories, La Noire de... (1966), the story of a young Senegalese woman who takes her own life while working in France, a film awarded the Jean Vigo Prize. The recurring themes of Sembène's films are the history of colonialism, the critique of the new African bourgeoisie, and the affirming of the strength of African women. His films have been regularly presented at the Moscow International Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival and FESPACO, which in 2001 paid tribute to his extraordinary career. Sembène’s last film, Moolaadé (2004), explored the issue of female genital mutilation and received an enthusiastic reception at both FESPACO and the Cannes Film Festival.
Both Vieyra and Sembène were key innovators of a postcolonial film aesthetic and in the development of audio-visual means of production, both in Senegal and throughout French-speaking West Africa. As intellectuals and artists, but also as political activists, they made movies that were close to the African public. And, importantly for today’s researchers, they kept all of the papers and materials related to their storied careers. Now that their archives have been acquired by the Lilly Library and the BFCA, we have the opportunity to explore Sembène’s and Vieyra’s work and legacies and have a better understanding of the origins of sub-Saharan African cinema.
- The primary goal of this workshop is to begin to fulfill Indiana University’s commitment to make available and to promote Sembène’s archives (Lilly Library) and Vieyra’s archives (BFCA).
- The second goal is to facilitate the journey to and stay in Bloomington, IN of specialists in early African cinema and to involve junior scholars in this fascinating research field. We are planning to gather about ten to fifteen researchers for approximately ten days.
- The third goal of this workshop is to produce a collection of essays linked to the archives, published by a major university press. Thus, each of the archival workshop participants will be selected according to the pertinence of their proposed chapter in this collective work. The final text will be expected before the end of 2024, after having participated in the archival workshop at Indiana University.
Call for chapter proposals
The co-editors will be Vincent Bouchard (Indiana University), Rachel Gabara (University of Georgia), and Amadou Ouédraogo (University of Louisiana at Lafayette).
We welcome proposals that focus on (but are not limited to) the following themes, with a particular interest in submissions that treat the links between these two key figures:
-Sembène’s and/or Vieyra’s intellectual legacies in their writings.
- The new aesthetic to which they contributed through their own audio-visual production, collaborations, and film criticism, in the early stages of sub-Saharan African cinema (1955-1980).
- Sembène’s and/or Vieyra’s contributions in the organization and administration of cinematographic institutions in West Africa.
- Sembène’s and/or Vieyra’s support, as producer or mentor, of other African filmmakers.
- Sembène’s and/or Vieyra’s contributions to the promotion of African cinema more broadly.
By October 30th, 2022, proposals (500 words, a short bibliography, and a brief professional biography) in English should be sent to the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org.