Black Film

Excerpt from an interview with Ousmane Sembene on African women

  • Interviewer :From the time you wrote your first novel, The Black Docker (1956), in whch the first chapter was called "The Mother", you have given a very particular emphasis to women, to the heroism of African women. Why does this heroism recur, as a leitmotif, throughout your work?
  • Sembene :I think that Africa is maternal. the African male is very maternal; he loves his mother; he swears on his mother. when someone insults his father the man can take it; but once his mother's honor has been hurt, the man feels he's not worthy of life if he doesn't defend his mother. according to our traditions, a man has no intrinsic value, he receives his value from his mother. this concept goes back before Islam : the good wife, the good mother, the submissive mother who knows how to look after her husband and family. the mother embodies our society...i continue to think that African society is very maternal. maybe we have inherited from our pre-Islamic matriarchy. that said, to me, every man loves a woman. we love them. besides, more than 50% of the African population are women. more than half of the 800,000,000 that we are. this is a force that we must be able to mobilize for our own development. there's no one who works as hard as the rural women.


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