We were saddened to hear that Ousmane Sembène, 84, and arguably the father of African cinema, died this past weekend at his home in Dakar. A prominent critic of colonial and post-colonial mismanagement of his native Senegal and Francophone West Africa generally, he burst onto the scene with the 1966 film “Black Girl” (La Noire De…) about a young Senegalese woman who commits suicide after being taken to work as a domestic by a French family on the Cote d’Azur. The film won the Prix Jean Vigo that year, and served to reify the debate in France about that country’s vexed relationship with its former colonies. He has been one of the major figures in African cinema since then, most recently releasing Moolaadé, a 2004 film that critiqued the practice of female genital mutilation.
We’re sure that one of the Chicago arthouse cinemas will put on a Sembène retrospective sooner or later (Doc Films, we’re talking to you). In the meantime, we don’t know what you do when somebody dies, but we eat. Is West African too obvious? The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question, “is this post itself ironically exploitative and colonialist?” Bracketing all that, here are some suggestions for food (we have already given you suggestions for thought):
Yassa is probably the best idea, since it’s actually Senegalese, and it gets consistently good reviews. Bolat African Cuisine is perfectly acceptable - even though it’s more Ghanian than Senegalese - because it’s BYO and you can drink the pain away. Lastly, if you’re lucky enough to live near Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant in Edgewater, and they deign to answer the phone when you call, you can get your Jollof rice delivered, and mourn in solitude.
A Filmmaker Who Found Africa’s Voice [NYTimes]
Black Girl (film) [Wikipedia]
Prix Jean Vigo [Wikipedia]
Yassa [Official Site]
Bolat African Cuisine [MenuPages]
Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant [MenuPages]
[Photo: Ousmane Sembène, Senses of Cinema]