Amoeblog

Who's black and whose black?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 17, 2009 12:00am | Post a Comment

As Black History Month rolls on, I asked myself a question that may seem stupid to most people: Who exactly is black and who is not? And how is it decided? Does the individual or society determine what we are or is it a combination of both? Are there other factors? Is this the Family Feud or actual objective science?
 

In 2009, all rational and educated people now accept that race is a human construct, which isn't to say that it's meaningless. As long as people are treated differently (preferentially, discriminatorily or just differently based on presupposed differences) on the basis of race, how society constructs and applies that race is worth thinking about. And, ideally, there shouldn't be any shame in recognizing broad cultural differences either. Why should "white pride" be offensive? Pride in er-one, I say. Minor caveat: to even assume that American society has reached a consensus on race defies reality – that's why Dave Chappelle instituted the racial draft. So step with me into a blog of shadows and substance, things and ideas into, to coin a phrase, The Twilight Zone.

 

The Great Black North

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 10, 2009 12:56pm | Post a Comment

One fact that’s widely overlooked during Black History Month is that it’s not only Black History Month in the US. Besides having the stated aim of highlighting the contributions to human history made by the entire black diaspora, BHM is simultaneously observed in Canada. People who've never been to Canada may not believe that black people live there. While it's true that the black Canadian population is minute compared to the black American populartion both in terms of numbers and percentage, black Canadians have contributed significantly to Canada's mostly overlooked music scene and their contributions are surely worth honoring (oops! ...honouring). [Special thanks goes to MuchMusic].


Dream Warriors - Wash Your Face in My Sink


Maestro Fresh Wes - Let Your Backbone Slide

Interspersed with exemplars of black Canadian musical contributions, allow me to ponder the controversies surrounding terminology used to discuss black Canadians and hopefully in the process shed a little light on history. No doubt we'll never come to a consensus on what's the most accurate/least offensive/least ridiculous terminology, but just thinking and talking about it is worthwhile far as I'm concerned... or at least fun.


Oscar Peterson - Waltz For Debby

Cinema of Burkina Faso

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 1, 2009 01:27pm | Post a Comment
Sindou Peaks in Burkina Faso

Background on Burkina Faso

What is now Burkina Faso has been continuously inhabited for at least 14,000 years. The main indigenous population of this Sahelian region were the Yonyonse, who remained for thousands of years until they were displaced by the Mossi people of what is now Ghana only a thousand years ago. The Mossi established several kingdoms; the first, Tenkodogo, was founded in 1120 and ruled by Naaba. The Dogon, who'd inhabited areas in the north, left between the 15th and 16h centuries. Two more Mossi Kingdoms followed and dominated the area for about 800 years until 1896 when France invaded and established a colonial occupation. Upper Volta, as it was then known, gained independence from the French in 1960. As is the case with most post-Colonial countries, the years since have been dominated by dictatorships, wars and coups.

Street scene in Ouagadougou

Yet despite being plagued by poverty, unemployment and strife, Burkina Faso inarguably has one of West Africa's most vibrant cultures. Literature, primarily transmitted orally until collected in the 1930s, has long been a central part of Burkina Faso's culture. A strong theater tradition owing to both Burkinabé traditions and French influences has also been a major aspect of Burkinabé's cultural life. With over 60 ethnic groups, no one sort of music has yet dominated Burkina Faso's musical scene, although American and European pop are the most popular. Since 1969, Burkina Faso has been one of, if not the, dominant powers in Africa's film industry.

Cinema of Mali

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 22, 2008 08:36pm | Post a Comment
Backrground of Mali

Ghana Empire Mali Empire  Sonhai Empire

            750 - 1076                                   1230 - 1600                                              1340 - 1591

Historically Mali was part of three Sahelian Kingdoms. The Soninke-dominated Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (which established Timbuktu and Djenne as major cities) and the Songhai Empire. These kingdoms controlled Trans-Saharan trade of gold, salt and other precious comodities. It collapsed following an Imazighen (aka Berber) invasion. When the European nations established sea routes for trade, the Trans-Saharan trade economy collapsed. To make things worse, the region grew increasingly desertified. France invaded the weakened nation and occupied Mali from the early 1800s until independence in 1959. Today, Mali is economically one of the poorest countries in the world.

Malians outside a cinema
Malians outside a cinema

Culturally, however, it's quite rich. Like its West African neighbors, it's also highly diverse. Most of its people are Bamana. There are also large populations of Soninke, Khassonke and Malink are all Mandé. There are smaller numbers of Peul, Voltaic, Songhai, Taureg, Bozo, Dogon, and Moor.  Altogether, more than 40 languages are spoken. 

Senegalese Film

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 5, 2008 01:08am | Post a Comment




During the Colonial era, cinematic images of Africa and its people were entirely the work of Western filmmakers. The Tarzan movies, African Queen, King Solomon's Mines and others were usually filmed on soundstages half a world away from Africa and made little to no effort toward authenticity, instead trading in exoticism aimed primarily at exploiting Western tastes.



Senegal gained its independence from France in 1960. Like most West African countries, Senegal is highly diverse. The Wolof, Peul, Halpulaaren, Serer, Lebou, Jola, Mandinka, Moors, Soninke and Bassari are all long established in the country. There are also substantial populations of French, Mauritanians, Lebanese and Vietnamese. Three years after independence, the first Senegalese film was made by Ousmane Sembene titled L'empire sonhrai, which would set the standards for a uniquely African cinematic language that would establish Senegal as the capital of African Cinema.

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