“Father of African Film” Dies at 84

As far as I am concerned, I no longer support notions of purity. Purity has become a thing of the past. I constantly question myself. I am neither looking for a school nor for a solution but asking questions and making others think.

Ousmane Sembène (January 1, 1923 — June 9, 2007), often credited in the French style as Sembène Ousmane in articles and reference works, was a Senegalese film director, producer and writer. He was considered one of the greatest authors of sub-Saharan Africa.

He is best-known for his historical-political works with strong social comment. Sembène has often turned his short stories and novels into films. He is considered one of the founders of the African realist tradition. Sembène’s image of Africa has been more self-critical, less romanticized that Leopold Sedar Senghor’s, who more or less glorified the past.

Sembène Ousmane was born in Zinguinchor-Casamange region of Senegal in the colonial French West Africa. After a brief period of the Ecole de Céramique at Marsassoum, Sembène turned to various occupations in order to support his family. Since the age of fifteen, Sembène has earned his living. He has worked as a plumber, bricklayer, apprentice mechanic. During the World War II he served in the French Army in Europe. Following France’s official surrender to Germany, Sembéne joined the Free French forces in 1942 and landed with them in France in 1944.

After the war Sembène returned to Senegal where he participated in the Dakar-Niger railway strike of 1947. Later returned to France, joining community of dock workers in Marseilles. He taught himself to read and write in French and published his first novel in 1956. The work was based on his own experiences in France.

In the 1960s Sembène developed an interest in the cinema and studied film production in the U.S.S.R. His La Noire de.. (The Black Girl from…) was the first film ever produced by African filmmaker and won a prize at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival. It was a story of a girl, Diouna, who leaves his own family to become a housemaid in Antibes, France. She commits suicide, and her employees, a white retrund to Dakar, to explain what cannot explain.

Sembène has received several international awards. His films have been immensely popular in Africa, although the socialist political commentary in his 1970s films has sometimes gotten him into trouble with the authorities. CEDDO (1977), dealing with the subject of African cooperation in supplying slaves to western slave traders, was banned in Senegal. Sembène’s open hostility toward foreigners, religious leaders, and the African bourgeoisie pitted him against president Senghor. The concept of negritude, launched by Senghor and others, is for Sembène idle talk by African elites and has little meaning in real life.

As a writer Sembène made his debut as a novelist with LE DOCKER NOIR (1956, The Black Docker). It was born quite accidentally. Sembène he was forced to leave work for several months, during which time he wrote down his personal experiences as a dock worker. The protagonist is Diaw Falla, who works on the docks. He kills a white woman who had tried to take credit for a prize-winning book that he himself wrote, and ends in prison in life.

 On June 9th, 2007, Sembene Ousmane passed away in Dakar (his hometown) at 84 years of age. He has been ill since December 2006.

May god rest his soul.

For more information on Sembene Ousmane visit:




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