Sada Niang

Sada  Niang
Sada Niang, a professor in the Department of French, is fascinated by the possibilities presented by the cinema to African artists: “You have the images, the colours; you have the possibility of having people speak in their own languages; you have the possibility of integrating local music and popular arts.”

Originally a scholar of African literature, Niang has turned his attention in the last fifteen years to African cinema. “One of the issues that kept cropping up among African writers,” he explains, “was that they knew they were writing in English and French, the languages of the colonizers. And they were claiming that their objectives were to reach the masses, which was impossible, because they could reach only the people who have been to school, and that’s less than fifty percent of the population in most African countries.” As a result, some militant African artists turned to cinema, theatre in local African languages, or literary creation in these languages.

Niang’s recent work has focused specifically on African documentary cinema, and he is currently co-editing what will be the first scholarly volume on the subject. “There’s very little work done on African documentaries,” he laments. “Very very little.”

Niang cites Osvalde Lewat, Sokhna Amar, and Jean-Marie Teno as some of the many noteworthy African documentary filmmakers he studies. He explains that Teno’s work, for example, always examines the question, “Who are we as Africans?” That is, “How are we rebuilding our lives after slavery and colonialism” and amid “the cohabitation of tradition and modernity?”

So although the film scholarship is lacking, Niang sees African films themselves as fascinating objects of study that speak to people, especially the non-literate, as no other medium can.