African Women in Cinema Studies: A Reader

a compilation of published works by Beti Ellerson, which presents foundational concepts for those interested in deepening their knowledge about African women in cinema, visual media and screen culture

  1. The African Women in Cinema Dossier

  2. The African Women in Cinema Dossier is a component of Black Camera, the International Film Review since 2015 as well as the academic constituent of the Centre. 

  3. African Women of the Screen: An agenda for research

  4. Drawing from on-going work in which theories and ideas have been introduced, discussed and presented in varying versions and stages of analysis, this article gives an overview of selected topics and issues that have and continue to be of relevance to African women in cinema studies.

  5. - The role of the filmmaker in knowledge production

  6. - African women’s cinematic gaze as alternative discourse: a theory-practice-activist approach

  7. - Identity, positionality and screen practices

  8. - Training, formation and cinematic identity

  9. African Women in Film, the Moving Image, and Screen Culture (Oxford Research Encyclopedias African History)

  10. While African women in film have distinct histories and trajectories, at the same time they have common goals and objectives. Hence, “African women in film” is a concept, an idea, with a shared story and path. While there has always been the hope of creating national cinemas, even the very notion of African cinema(s) in the plural has been pan-African since its early history. And women have taken part in the formation of an African cinema infrastructure from the beginning. The emergence of an “African women in cinema movement” developed from this larger picture. The boundaries of women’s work extend to the global African diaspora. Language, geography, and colonial legacies add to the complexity of African cinema history. Women have drawn from the richness that this multiplicity offers, contributing on local, national, continental, and global levels as practitioners, activists, cultural producers, and stakeholders.

  11. African Women of the Screen at the Digital Turn

  12. The advent of social media and digital technologies marks a new era in African film production, spectatorship, reception, diffusion, critique and pedagogy. Its impact on the visibility of women and their work is remarkable as these devices are increasingly embraced as tools and strategies for visual exchange and communication. The emergence of an online community of African women of the screen since the 2010s proves to be a game-changer as a network of stakeholders interconnected as colleagues, friends, fans, followers, group members, navigates within a collective virtual space. This paper analyses these trends and tendencies, the engagement of African women in cinema with the strategies and devices of new media and their evolution in screen culture practices.

  13. Building a Historiography of African Women in Cinema

  14. A historiography of African women in cinema necessitates an active, protracted, ongoing practice of data collection, organisation, analysis, documentation, and archival work-  an activity that entails coordinated, committed, and sustained efforts, though not necessarily centralised. The organising principles of the pan-African organisation of women professionals of the moving image laid out the groundwork for such a continent-wide initiative and the conceptual framework has been embedded in myriad initiatives especially on the local levels. It is on this level that women are the most familiar with needs and concerns on the ground, in the community, and the local and state policies needed to implement them.

  15. Keynote: 40 years of cinema by women of Africa by Beti Ellerson. Colloquy: Francophone African Women Filmmakers: 40 years of cinema (1972-2012)

  16. The Keynote proposes a non-deficit approach with a spirit of encouragement and optimism. While the chronology suggests a 40 year timeline, the introduction by a pre-history intended to show a continuity of women's presence in the long history of cinema, and thus, the extraordinary story of Kadidia Pâté's first film viewing experience in 1934 in Mali. The keynote also wants to suggest that the colloquium would be a genuine meeting place of filmmakers, critics and filmgoers.

  17. Reflections on African Women on and behind the Screen

  18. African Women on, behind and in front of the Screen sketches in broad strokes, African women's engagement with the moving image as stakeholders and participants in both on-screen visual representation of women, and off-screen and behind-the-scene roles throughout and beyond the film production process. The first, on the screen, recalls the initial visual engagement with the film leaving the viewer to contemplate the actor’s role and the filmmaker’s intent. The second, behind the screen, conjures a team of film industry practitioners: screenwriter, director, cinematographer, crew, producer, editor, distributor, festival organiser and other professionals. And to propose a third, in front of the screen, as cultural reader, evoking a discerning audience and the film critic.

  19. Reflections on Cinema Criticism and African Women

  20. What then do African women say? What is an African woman’s cinematic voice? How do they speak through film? How do they express their vision to their societies and to the world? How do they inscribe their écriture into their work? What are the issues related to the creation of an African women’s film criticism? What are the elements needed to develop it? Why is it important that it be endogenous—that African women themselves formulate the theories and discourse? How would this discourse be encouraged and sustained beyond the film festival forums and occasional conferences and meetings that have given it voice? How can film production be enhanced in order to build a collection of quality works? How can an endogenous African women cinema studies be reconciled with the dominance of western feminist film criticism that interprets female representation and women’s filmmaking practice within western canons and paradigms? Under what conditions are African women able to forge a critique that is meaningful to their experiences? Folly Reimann (2000) proposes an African woman’s perspective as an alternative discourse as “their perspective does not simply analyse things; they live them.”

  21. Sisters in African Cinema. PDF. Introduction of the AFRIKA FILM FESTIVAL Cologne Catalogue,  September 2016.

  22. To appreciate the cinemas of African women entails a broader understanding of the historical evolution of African cinema, of African filmmaking practices and the manner in which they operate within African social, cultural and political structures, all of which have direct influences on the role that African women define for themselves in this sphere and a significant impact on how they are able to function within it. Likewise, Africa is a vast continent with diverse languages, political and social histories, environmental and geographical specificities, as well as religious and cultural practices. Hence, this multiplicity of African life and experiences underscores the plurality of African cinema(s).

  23. Born at the eve of African independence movements of the 1950s and 1960s, African cinema was used as a tool to counter the colonialist/imperialist gaze that depicted Africa as the Other, subservient, uncivilised, without agency. During this embryonic period, women film professionals, in the capacity of filmmakers, actors, organisers, journalists, played important roles in the creation of a genuine African cinema culture.

  24. Teaching African Women in Cinema

  25. The course explores visual representation, the gaze and African women’s experience with the visual image across artistic disciplines, especially as it relates to image construction and social location. The course probes issues of identity, power, agency, the body, sexuality, race, ethnicity, gender and positionality at the intersection of feminism, postcoloniality, cultural studies and visual culture. 

  26. The diversity and plurality of African life, history, experience and culture suggests that there is a plurality of African women’s experiences, thus the importance of using an interdisciplinary approach. To better understand African women’s cultural production, it is important to contextualize it within the larger sphere of African history in general, and African cultures in particular. The course explores the history, experiences, tendencies and sensibilities of African women’s artistic practice at the intersection of cultural criticism, postcolonial theory and gender analysis. The course draws especially from continental African women’s cultural discourses.

  27. Understanding that Africa is a vast continent with many different languages, social and political histories, geographic and demographic specificities, as well as religious and cultural practices, the course highlights the plurality of African societies.

  28. The course explores African cultures, histories and social interactions through the eyes of African women, traversing cinema, material culture, visual culture, sartorial and corporeal practices, music and dance, oral tradition, spirituality, African landscapes and environments, life cycles, African/Western encounters, African diasporas, technologies, resistance and conflicts, African liberation and independences, and the diverse critiques of African societies through their women artists. Central to the goals of the course is to study the particular nature of the diverse African social, cultural, political and economic systems. Thus the course will look at national, regional, continental and international trends and issues.

  29. Themes of ethnicity, gender, religion, identity, relocation and diaspora, trauma and conflict—important issues of the first decade of the twenty-first century—identify some significant themes that will inform the course study.

  30. This course enables an understanding of the complexity and diversity of African contemporary societies, through the eyes of African women. The course holds transforming potential for the students, and will be useful in their career goal of promoting greater understanding of African women’s role in cultural production, through its inquiry and analyses of the intersecting dynamics and focus on critical questions for study.

  31. Visualizing Herstories: Towards an Introduction to African Women Cinema Studies

  32. As a general introduction to African Women Cinema Studies, the text examines African women's cinematic practices, African women as cultural readers within the cinema arena both in front of and behind the camera, and in front of the screen as critic and audience. The essay explores the following questions: In what ways do African women use "cinema"? What are their commonalities and differences? Is there an emergence of film criticism practices by African women indicative of African realities? How are African women going beyond dominant gazes (masculinist, white feminist, western) to visualize the specificities of Africa and its extended boundaries? What are African women's experiences in cinema?

  33. The broad categories for examination are: the contextualization of African women's cinema within African filmmaking; women's voices and cinematic practices; women's stories, experiences and realities; theoretical and critical practices of interpretation; thematic approaches to African women's cinematic practices; women organizing and working together.

    The essay provides the groundwork for readers from the diverse disciplines of African Studies, Women Studies, and Cinema Studies to appreciate the myriad aspects of African women in the cinema and their evolution in this domain. It explores the various political, social and cultural contexts of African women in the audio-visual media, examine

  34. s current discourse on gender and cinema and its role in cultural policy development, and analyzes the various networks that contribute to women's expanding roles in the cinema.  In the process, the reader will be exposed to theoretical questions and criticism by African women that probe the issues of identity, subjectivity, the body, and positioning; and critical perspectives that consider how African women's contributions in the cinema through pedagogy for mass communication and consciousness-raising are directly related to African development. Likewise, the essay looks at African women's cinemas as an "alternative discourse", as another way of experiencing cinema outside western and masculinist hegemony. One of its goals is to contribute to the ongoing dialogue in the areas of Women Studies and World Cinema.