Sembene Across Africa: Grand Finale at WARC with the film XALA

On Wednesday October 28th, the West African Research Center (WARC) hosted the last event closing the 2020 edition of the Sembene Across Africa annual event. Initiated by Professor Samba Gadjigo (Mount Holyoke College, USA) and Mr Jason Silverman, a filmmaker in California, the Galle Ceddo Project, each year, dedicates a week (most of the time in June) to celebrate the work of the father of African Cinema, Ousmane Sembene. The West African Research Center is one of the major partners of the project as it helps organize events in West Africa particularly, but also in the rest of the continent every year.
To close this year’s week dedicated to Sembene, WARC screened the film XALA with many viewers watching and contributing to the ensuing discussions virtually. The session was moderated by Professor Louis Mendy of University Cheikh Anta Diop and recorded seminal contributions from various people including Professor Ibrahima Thioub, former Rector of UCAD, Professor Ousmane Sene (WARC). The Director of WARC pointed out a feature of the film which is not frequently commented on by film critics: the khalam player and singer, Samba Diabare Samb, offering in wolof comments on the various episodes and developments in the film, thus discussing the film based on wisdom directly culled from the Wolof culture. Professor Thioub insisted on Sembene’s temporality as opposed to the temporality of historians: while all the characters in the chamber of commerce scene are true historical figures in Senegal, Beye’s three wives are fictional characters representing three distinct periods in the history of the country and the african continent: the slave trade, the colonial times and the era of african countries’ independence.
Many other contributions were registered from no less than 50 viewers from Nigeria, the U.S, Senegal and various other countries.