When Hollywood does Africa, there’s little in the romance and love department, unless it’s about Karin Blixen making ill-fated choices (in white colonial men) or some random family who move to Africa and fall in love with the land … and the flame trees (you know the list I’m thinking about).
When a white do-gooder escapee from European/British stultification falls for a gorgeous Ugandan–she’s going to get chopped up by Idi. If ever we see black characters falling in love, their romantic world is overshadowed by various external crises—warlords, corrupt politicians, locusts, famine, war (then a nice white aid worker helps one kid). Love is rarely explored in terms of the emotional and existential crises that love between two white people from America or Europe is explored, or in a silly, light-hearted way that focuses on the couple’s respective families and friends behaving badly (as in the style of, say, ‘Love Jones’ or the remake of ‘About Last Night’).
The just inaugurated Intimacy in Africa at the University of Chicago hopes to change some of those skewed perceptions. The series is curated and organized by Erin Moore, a comparative human development graduate student at the university, whose goals for the series include bringing attention to African filmmakers who challenge prevalent cinematic depictions of the continent.
The six films that make up the series, according to Moore, provide a comparative perspective on issues of “domesticity, intimacy, sexuality, subjectivity and affect in Africa and the diaspora.” Through their focus on the domestic sphere, this set of films provides a space in which ideas of love, intimacy, and sex are brought to the foreground even as they are shaped by and impact larger issues of politics, history, and culture. Thus while these films–set in and between Senegal, France, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Mali, Mozambique, Uganda and the United States–grow out of engagements with the historical and social conditions of colonialism, post-independence, and globalization, they also articulate the roles intimacies have played and continue to play in African lives. Each film will be followed by a short discussion, creating a forum for viewers to engage with the individual films and also as a unified body of work.
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By Chandani Patel – Africa is a country