Sembene, Ousmane

1923–2007
Senegalese author and film director

Ousmane Sembene is widely regarded as the father of African CINEMA. Born in SENEGAL, Sembene served in the French army during World War II. He returned to his homeland briefly and took part in a railway strike in 1947–1948. He went back to France and, over the next several years, traveled to Denmark, Russia, China, and Vietnam.

In 1960 Sembene published his best-known novel, God’s Bits of Wood. Then he went to Russia and studied filmmaking in Moscow for two years. While continuing to write novels and short stories, he began to direct films. He achieved a commercial success with the 1968 film Mandabi. This was the first of three films that examined the struggles of Senegalese citizens faced with the social problems of their country.

Sembene later directed three historical films, including Ceddo (1976), which was banned for years in Senegal because it exposed the role of Islam in the West African SLAVE TRADE. His most recent film, Faat-Kine, tells the story of a Senegalese woman and the sacrifices she makes for her family. Sembene’s films and novels have challenged authority and dealt with sensitive issues. He has received many awards for his work. (See also Literature, Popular Culture.)

Sembene, Ousmane