My presentation aims at offering a brief introduction to Manthia Diawara’s multifaceted work as a writer, filmmaker, and cultural theorist. Accompanying his biographic path by means of the narratives he offers in his books and films, I shall highlight the importance of the narrating mode he uses to offer us personal and collective stories through a distinctive voice, stories centred on a multi-located Africa, a continent that haunts him constantly – be it as a source of inspiration or anxiety, be it as an anchoring point, or as an object of – a never distant – analysis, faced with the pains and pleasures of exile. Travelling between Africa, Europe and the Americas, Diawara presents us with stories through which he approaches topics that are decisive for our contemporaneity, a time in which post- and neo-colonial imbalances, associated to migrations and the corresponding identitarian turbulences, are also a major issue to be addressed in Portugal, still in want of facing the country’s colonial past, the current challenges posed by globalisation, and the need to decolonise its national imaginary and self–representations.
In Search of Africa (1997, Mali, 26’)
Director: Manthia Diawara; Production: Manthia Diawara; Editing: Beverly Petterson, Lora Hayes, Jim Underwood; Cinematography: Melvin Estrela, Arthur Jafa, Rene Gabri, Medoune Ndiaye, Barry Dia, Catherine Retat; Sound: Paul Michael; With: Maryse Condé, Mamadou Gologo, Mancona Kouyaté, Suret-Canal, Jane Martin Cissé; English subtitles
In 1996, the filmmaker and writer Manthia Diawara, returns to Guinea, thirty-two years after he and his family were expelled from the newly liberated country. Despite the years that have gone by, Diawara expects to be welcomed as an insider, and is shocked to discover that he is not.
Rouch in Reverse (1995, Mali, 52’)
Director: Manthia Diawara; Production: Parminder Vir, Formation Films; Editing: Sikay Tang, Justine Krish; Cinematography: Arthur Jafa, Khalid Frikha; Sound: Bernard Pichon; With: Jean Rouch; English subtitles
In this controversial documentary Manthia Diawara critiques visual anthropology through the work of Jean Rouch. The film consists of an engaging dialogue between post-colonial francophone Africa and its previous oppressor, France. Commonly, viewers are subjected to a European perspective, providing a distant gaze into African culture, objectifying Africans or perhaps “othering” this community. This film, however, reverses this relationship through an examination of the life and works of ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch. Rouch discusses the state of contemporary Franco-African society from a uniquely African perspective. Rouch also discusses his body of work as well as his general outlook on life with passion and honesty. Diawara and Rouch speak with great intrigue throughout the course of “Rouch in Reverse”.