Ousmane Sembene

Ousmane Sembène

The Making of a Militant Artist
Samba Gadjigo
Translated by Moustapha Diop. Foreword by Danny Glover
Distribution: World
Publication date: 4/13/2010
Format: paper 218 pages, 5 b&w illus.
6 x 9 x .625
ISBN: 978-0-253-22151-3
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Samba Gadjigo presents a unique personal portrait and intellectual history of novelist and filmmaker Ousmane Sembène. Though Sembène has persistently deflected attention away from his personality, his life, and his past, Gadjigo has had unprecedented access to the artist and his family. This book is the first comprehensive biography of Sembène and contributes a critical appraisal of his life and art in the context of the political and social influences on his work. Beginning with Sembène’s life in Casamance, Senegal, and ending with his militant career as a dockworker in Marseilles, Gadjigo places Sembène into the context of African colonial and postcolonial culture and charts his achievements in film and literature. This landmark book reveals the inner workings of one of Africa’s most distinguished and controversial figures.

Author Bio

Samba Gadjigo is Professor of French and African literature at Mount Holyoke College. He is author of Ecole blanche, Afrique noire: L'image de l'école coloniale dans le roman africaine francophone and editor of Ousmane Sembène: Dialogue with Critics and Writers. He has directed a documentary on Sembène's film, Moolaade.


"Samba Gadjigo has undertaken a very important task, that of writing the first biography of one of the best-known and most influential African writers—and the founder of the continent's cinema—Ousmane Sembène." —Christopher L. Miller, author of The French Atlantic Triangle

"Samba Gadjigo's book is both biography and demystification. It exposes the situations and historical moments which created Sembène the artist. Concisely and convincingly written, this investigation of the life of a man who inhabited various intellectual, artistic, and political spaces is an eloquent duty of memory." —Sada Niang, author of Djibril Diop Mambety

"This is the first biography of one of the most important African writers and filmmakers . . . an enjoyable read. . . . Recommended." —Choice

"Gadjigo's admiration of Sembène along with the intellectual earnestness with which he has documented the life of one of Africa's most gifted artists yields a fine and welcome first biography of a formidable man." —Research in African Literatures , Vol. 42.2, Summer 2011

"Very well documented, this biography is of critical importance and unquestionable value to students, teachers, and researchers of African literature and cinema." —
African Affairs Advance Access , September 2, 2011

"[T]his narrative that reconstitutes the world that shaped one of the greatest African artists is a significant contribution to the fields of African, Film, and Francophone Studies." —
French Review

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Table of Contents


Part 1. On the Banks of a Mighty River: Ousmane Sembène's Childhood
1. Casamance
2. At the Crossroads of Cultures
3. Youth and Its Discontents
4. Colonial Violence

Part 2. Dakar: The Turbulent Years
5. The Lebu Ghettos of Dakar Plateau
6. The World of Labor
7. The Experience of Racism
8. "Here We Come, Marshal!"

Part 3. Dakar in the Postwar Period
9. The Winds of Change
10. The Moment of Truth

Part 4. The Making of a Militant-Artist
11. "The Village"
12. The Docker
13. The Militant
14. The Fire-Giver


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