Monday, 18 June 2007


A great African film maker, Ousmane Sembène, died recently. He was born in Senegal, in Casamance, which coincidentally is where Papillon's family originated, and he was a great advocate of women's liberation as the key to the development of African society.

His last film "Moolaadé" in 2004 tells the story of African women fighting against female genital mutilation.

Although that was three years ago, his efforts nevertheless continue. The first telefilm to be produced by AFRICAphonie is Nkuma, telling the story of Bessem, a woman who finds that she is infertile as the result of female genital mutilation. Directed by George Ngwame in Cameroon, its aim is to raise awareness and sensitise people to the issues, as well as condemning female genital mutilation.

As a review of the film says, it illustrates the difficulties in trying to promote behavioural change within communities and puts forward alternative and innovative methods to resolve their conflicts.

Coincidentally, I'm reading a book by Khady Koita, Mutilée, which tells her own story of FGM. I haven't yet finished it but early on I was struck by a passage which described the way a woman from another area reacted. She laughed as if to make it a joke, but said "You aren't still doing that are you? Have you not yet wakened?". That could possibly have more effect than many efforts currently being made by "outsiders".

In an interview, George Ngwame says that the film industry is in a perfect position for communication, education, and information. Film/television followed up by word of mouth has to be some of the most powerful ways to spread ideas.

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