Filmmaker Sarah Maldoror’s work is acknowledged as tightly linked to the fight for independence in multiple African nations in the 1960s and 1970s, the topic and background of several of her films. Born in Gers, France, in 1929, she first emerged on the Parisian scene in the mid-1950s, already bearing her chosen name: Maldoror, the evil protagonist of the Chants (1868) of Comte de Lautréamont, reassessed and glorified by the surrealist poets. In his Discours sur le colonialisme (1950), Aimé Césaire qualified Maldoror as “the iron man forged by capitalist society”.
Back in the 1950s, Sarah Maldoror initiates Les Griots, the first all-black cast French theatre company, with actors and actresses of African and Caribbean descent, that went on to claim its fame staging Les Nègres (The Blacks) by Jean Genet. Although, by then, Maldoror had already gone East and South: in Africa with her partner Mário Pinto de Andrade, in Moscow to study cinema, and subsequently in Algiers, Martinique, to then settle in Saint-Denis.
Sarah Maldoror realized more than 45 films of all genres and lengths and worked on almost as many uncomplete projects. If none of her films fully obey the rules of the genres she tackled – documentary, fiction, portrait, landscape, etc. – all of them carry her character in their carefulness to favouring poetry over discourse, to combating prejudice and racism, and to never concealing the daily experience of people’s lives with ideas, an ethic she herself followed and embodied until her passing in the spring of 2020. This exhibition dedicated to Sarah Maldoror is an invitation to embark on the discovery of a wide selection of her cinema through a “landscape of films”, abolishing hierarchy between her works. The exhibition also offers an opportunity to tell the thousand tales of Sarah Maldoror’s lives, by way of dialogues arranged with artworks and artists invited to respond to her films. They cast an oblique light on her work, highlighting its reliefs and geographies, which, we feel, suits her best than the crude light of biography for a filmmaker who did not like to turn to the past, nor entombing tributes.
– Cédric Fauq and François Piron
Exhibition organised by Palais de Tokyo, Paris and the Galerias Municipais, Lisboa within the context of Temporada Portugal – França 2022 with the support from Institut françois, Instituto Camões and Gabinete de Estratégia, Planeamento e Avaliação Culturais. The exhibition was originally presented at Palais de Tokyo from 25/11/2021 to 13/03/2022.