28 August 2011

Women and Allegory in Sembene's 'Xala'

Allegory places a significant role in the films of Ousmane Sembene. Its presence may in part be accounted for by the allegorical nature of African oral and written literature as well as by Sembene's emphasis on the importance of the link between history, politics and culture. When 'Xala' opens, images of a drummer and a dancer are enlarged into a company of musicians and dancers celebrating the independence of Senegal from its French colonial rulers. White statues are ejected from the Chambrede Commerce, and black men take over, but the reality of post-colonial politics is not far behind.The white men reclaim the statues and depart, only to return instantaneously to deliver brief cases filled with cash to the new black government ministers. Thus, the allegorical treatment is introduced early in the film. And particularly with the obvious equation between the council president and the Senegalese president, Leopold Senghor (whose picture we see), the audience is alerted to read subsequent events in the film in allegorical fashion.