Senegalese Hip-Hop Artist Sister Fa Dedicates Her Life To Activism & The Fight Against Female Genital Cutting

Posted by Billyjam, February 12, 2015 03:28pm | Post a Comment

Harking back to hip-hop's once prevalent era of political/conscious rap - a time hip-hop and activism went hand in hand - is Senegalese rapper, singer, and activist Sister Fa who in 2005 won the first ever Senegalese Hip-Hop award and who uses her music as a tool to spread her message. {Note many US music fans first heard her work in the recent Rough Guide To Senegal compilation}  A childhood victim of the cultural practice of female genital cutting (FGC) she set up the grassroots campaign Education Sans Excision that's fighting to get communities move away from female genital cutting - that takes place in parts of Africa and elsewhere in which girls’ external genitals are removed either completely or partially. She also uses her hip-hop music to spread the good word. So engaging was Sister Fa's story that others took notice including some indie filmmakers she crossed paths with. The result was the activist artist became the subject of the critically acclaimed 201 documentary Sarabah that was made by Maria Luisa Gambale, Steve Lawrence and Gloria Bremer, produced by Link TV and Yerosha Productions. Filmmaker Maria Luisa Gambale recalled the chance meeting with Sister Fa - now six years ago - that would blossom into an ongoing collaborative work in fighting for human rights through music and film. "Steve [Lawrence] and I met her in the Fall of 2009 at the United Nations," she said adding that, "The second we met her we knew it was a big project."  Now four years old the film is still in demand and both its makers and subject are still touring with a US screening of the documentary taking place last Friday in New York City for the United Nation's International Day against genital cutting. Last week's screening, which took place at the Tribeca Screening Room, was hosted by the NGO Orchid Project. Earlier that same day I caught up via telephone with the artist to talk about the film, her hip-hop, and her activist work.

Sarabah trailer
"We show the movie in places and are keeping the project going showing it in different communities in Guinea, Gambia, and Senegal. We usually show the movie and show artists how they can be using their art to promote human rights and I can see that the impact [of the film] is still going on and I can see that it is really positive," said the Senegal artist/activist born Fatou Diatta noting how the documentary has become a very central part of her activist work over the past few years. As for why the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) even exists she replied,  "Each community will tell you different reasons" - from religious to cultural and that it is so ingrained in communities that it is" referring to FGC as, "like a social norm. It is like they are cutting hair." The stigma attached to communities where cutting is practiced runs deep, she said. "If I am living in that community then  my child has to be cut. If she is not she will be outcast. No one will like her. She will be treated worse than as an animal in her own community because they will say that she is 'dirty' and that she is 'impure' and she will bring bad luck to the family of the man who will marry her."

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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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