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The Films of Ousmane Sembène: Discourse, Politics, and Culture By Amadou Fofana ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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The Films of Ousmane Sembène:

Chapter 1

Introduction

Ousmane Sembène was the son of a simple fisherman. He was born on January 1, 1923, in the southern Senegalese city of Ziguinchor1, located in the Casamance which lies to the south of The Gambia. Sembène’s father was Lébou, a people organized in fishing communities and known as the original inhabitants of Cap Vert peninsula. His mother was Sereer, one of the last ethnic groups in Senegal to convert from its indigenous religion and belief system to Islam or Christianity. Both the Lébou and the Sereer were known for their public religious festivals, traditional rites of passage and healing rituals. As a child Sembène himself was initiated into a traditional Sereer Tuur and was even assigned a regular role of carrying the weekly milk offerings to the spirits of the family shrines, which, given his independent spirit, did not last very long.2 Although he was known to have rebelled a bit against the indigenous systems as a child, he maintained a strong attachment to and appreciation for pre-Islamic African social structures and beliefs throughout his adult life. His inclination toward traditional African spirituality is amply discussed in chapter five.

Despite his humble roots and relatively little formal education, Sembène went on to become a well-known and influential Senegalese