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Thomas F. DeFrantz

Afro‐Caribbean dancer and choreographer, was born Percival Sebastian Borde in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the son of George Paul Borde, a veterinarian, and Augustine Francis Lambie. Borde grew up in Trinidad, where he finished secondary schooling at Queens Royal College and took an appointment with the Trinidad Railway Company. Around 1942 he began formal research on Afro‐Caribbean dance and performed with the Little Carib Dance Theatre. In 1949 he married Joyce Guppy, with whom he had one child. The year of their divorce is unknown.

Borde took easily to dancing and the study of dance as a function of Caribbean culture. In the early 1950s he acted as director of the Little Carib Theatre in Trinidad. In 1953 he met the noted American anthropologist and dancer Pearl Primus who was conducting field research in Caribbean folklore Primus convinced Borde to immigrate to the United States as ...

Article

Houda Ben Ghacham

Tunisian film critic and director, was born in Tunis on 11 March 1944. His father, Taoufik Boughedir, was a journalist, novelist, playwright, and an influential figure in cultural life. Boughedir attended a French secondary school in Tunis and lived in the family home in Halfaouine, an area of old Tunis that was later to provide the name for the director’s first film. He went on to study French literature in Rouen and Paris and wrote two doctoral theses on African and Arabic cinema.

Boughedir first made a name for himself as a film critic, writing for, among others, the journal Jeune Afrique, which was published in Paris and distributed in francophone Africa. In his writing for this, he was an inexhaustible supporter of the cause of African cinema. He was involved in organizing the oldest pan-African film festival, Les Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage, in Tunis which he ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer, was born in Harlem, New York, the eldest of four children of Henry Lee, a railroad worker, and Ossie Brock, a domestic. Both parents had moved in 1935 from South Carolina to New York, seeking a better life in the North. Brown characterized his father as a man who worked hard, drank too much, enjoyed gospel music (especially when under the influence of alcohol), and whose parenting skills were limited to corporal punishment, which he meted out with great frequency. Brown's mother attended to the material needs of her children and attempted to save their souls by occasionally bringing them to an evangelical preacher who ran a makeshift church in her apartment.Growing up in a household with two working parents Brown got much of his upbringing on the streets and thus developed a tough attitude He recalls that around the age of four he was hit ...

Article

Angolan anthropologist, writer, and filmmaker, was born in Santarém, Portugal, on 22 April 1941. His family immigrated to Angola in 1953, to the city of Moçamedes, where he spent part of his adolescence. He then returned to Portugal, where in 1960 he finished a course in agronomy. During these Portuguese years, he kept himself at a distance from the group of young nationalist students from the colonies, who tended to congregate around the Casa dos Estudantes do Império in Lisbon, to discuss and denounce the iniquity of the Portuguese colonial system.

Carvalho returned to Angola in 1960. He was living in the province of Uìge when, in 1961, the anticolonial activity of the Movimento Popular para la Libertação de Angola (MPLA) began, which would lead to Angola eventually achieving independence in 1975 In those years Ruy Duarte de Carvalho worked as a coffee grower and ...

Article

Curtis Jacobs

was born Geraldine Roxanne Connor in the Paddington area of London, on 22 March 1952, the first of two children born to the black actor, singer, and folklorist Edric Connor and Pearl Nunez, Trinidadian-born immigrants who arrived there in 1944 and 1948 respectively. Her mother was of Portuguese and African ancestry. Connor was born into an artistic, creative household that received many famous visitors. She went to live in Trinidad at age eight, attending Tranquility Primary, the alma mater of Eric Williams, a family friend. Following her success at the Common Entrance Examinations, she attended Diego Martin Secondary from 1963 to 1968, the period during which her parents divorced. She returned to London in 1968.

Connor followed in her father’s footsteps, as she began her academic career in music. She entered the London School of Music in 1974 after which she returned to Trinidad to ...

Article

Amber B. Gemmeke

, Senegalese filmmaker and ethnologist, was born on 22 November 1943 in Fad’jal, Senegal, a small Serer village about sixty-two miles (hundred kilometers) south of Dakar, in the Sine-Saloum region. Safi Faye is the second of her mother’s seven children. Her father was a polygamous businessman and village chief, and Faye had thirteen half-brothers and half-sisters as well. Safi Faye attended primary school in Dakar and obtained her teacher’s certificate at the Normal School of Rufisque through a state contract in 1962. She worked as a schoolteacher in Dakar from 1963 until 1969. In 1966 she met Jean Rouch, the French ethnographic filmmaker and a father of cinema verité, at the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Cultures (FESTAC), in Dakar. Subsequently, she had a role in Rouch’s 1968 film Petit à petit: lettres persanes Little by Little Persian Letters Although Safi Faye ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Safi Faye is not only one of the few independent African women film directors, but also one of the few who make ethnographic films, which document cultures. Born near Dakar, Senegal, the daughter of a village chief and businessman of Serer origin, Faye moved to Dakar at the age of nineteen to become a teacher. There she became interested in the uses of film in education and ethnology, the study of ethnic groups and their cultures. Upon meeting French filmmaker and ethnologist Jean Rouche, Faye embarked on a film career.

Faye acted in Rouche’s Petit à petit ou les lettres persanes (1968). She learned about Rouche’s style of cinéma-vérité, characterized by an unobtrusive camera and spontaneous nonprofessional acting, which influenced her own film work. With Rouche’s encouragement she moved to Paris in 1972 enrolling in the École Pratique des Hautes Études to study ethnology and in the ...

Article

Sarah B. Buchanan

, Togolese filmmaker and international legal adviser for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, was born Ayele Folly-Reimann on 31 March 1954 in Lomé, Togo, to Amah Folly (a producer at the French world-music recording company OCORA and then at Radio France International) and Juliette Reimann. She has one sister. Folly studied law in Paris at the Université de Paris II–Panthéon-Assas. She began her career as an international legal adviser for UNESCO in 1981.

In the early 1990s Folly began making films In spired by Sarah Maldoror a French Guadeloupean filmmaker and Safi Faye a Senegalese filmmaker and ethnologist whom she has called des militantes dont le travail cinématographique est inspirant car il interroge l essence des problématiques des Africaines militants whose cinematographic work is inspiring because it interrogates the heart of the problems confronting African women Folly turned to film because she considers it similar to ...

Article

Diane Todd Bucci

journalist, music critic, author, filmmaker, and television producer, was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended St. John's University, and while there began his writing career at the black newspaper the Amsterdam News, where he was a college intern. During this time he also contributed to the music trade journal Billboard. After graduating from St. John's in 1979, George worked as a freelance writer and lived with his mother and sister in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Brooklyn. It did not take him long, though, to begin what would prove to be a flourishing career. George found employment as a black music editor, first for Real World magazine from 1981 to 1982, and then at Billboard from 1982 to 1989. He moved on to write a successful column entitled “Native Son” for the Village Voice, from 1989 to ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Haile Gerima was born in Gondar, Ethiopia. As a child, he acted in his father’s troupe, performing across Ethiopia. In 1967 Gerima moved to the United States and two years later enrolled in the University of California at Los Angeles drama school. There he became familiar with the ideas of black American leader Malcolm X and wrote plays about slavery and black militancy. After reading the revolutionary theory of Third Cinema, however, Gerima began to experiment with film. Gerima returned to Ethiopia in 1974 to film Harvest: 3,000 Years his first full length film and the only one of his works to be shot in Africa Although famine and the recent military overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie I placed severe restrictions on the film crew the final result was a sophisticated examination through the story of a village that finally overthrows its feudal landlord of the centuries ...

Article

Isabelle de Rezende

Belgian Africanist anthropologist and filmmaker, was a member of the first postwar cohort of Belgian anthropologists who were given “modern” professional training in the field as it began to emancipate itself from the concerns of the Belgian colonial administration in the Congo. Others in this cohort included historian Jan Vansina, who became one of the most illustrious Africanists of his generation, as well as the anthropologists Daniel Biebuyck and Jacques Maquet. Heusch was the only one among them to remain in Belgium, leading, from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Free University of Brussels), Belgian (francophone) academic anthropology and training subsequent generations of anthropologists in the 1970s and 1980s.

Heusch was born in Brussels in 1927 to a well to do family From his own telling his formative years were spent as a lonely and studious teenager whose mother had passed away when he was 11 inside his father ...

Article

Edward T. Washington

scholar, theater historian, editor, playwright, and director, was born Errol Gaston Hill in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the son of Thomas David and Lydia (Gibson) Hill. Hill's father lived away from the family throughout the boy's childhood, but his mother, a singer and actress in the local Methodist Church, strongly influenced him to pursue a theatrical career. Hill's involvement with drama took a major step forward in the mid-1940s when he co-founded, with the international actor Errol John and others a local amateur theater group called the Whitehall Players While writing acting and directing in that group Hill developed an interest in Trinidadian carnival and steel band music By the early 1950s with the assistance and support of the Trinidad and Tobago Youth Council Hill was among the first Trinidadians to air steel band music on the radio Given the worldwide popularity of ...

Article

Peggy Brooks-Bertram

One of the most important African American women in the history of Oklahoma, Drusilla Dunjee Houston was a multifaceted figure who, at one time or another during her wide-ranging career, was an educator, self-trained historian, elegist, black clubwoman, and journalist. Her writings span three different literary periods: the race writers, the Black Women’s Era (1890-1900), and the Harlem Renaissance. Despite voluminous writings, both journalistic and historical, for more than four decades, Houston remains one of the most overlooked of all African American women writers.

One of ten siblings of former slaves, the Reverend John William Dunjee and Lydia Dunjee, Houston was born in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia Her family lived in Myrtle Hall on the grounds of the Storer College a school for freedmen in the Shenandoah Mission where her father was the financial officer during Reconstruction Commissioned by the American Baptist Home Missionary Society Reverend ...

Article

Luis Gonçalves

Mozambican poet, journalist, and literary and film critic, was born in Inhambane, Mozambique in 1932. His family name, Knopfli, comes from his Swiss great-grandfather. Knopfli’s father was in Mozambique, where he worked for the colonial government, and he married by proxy a Portuguese primary school teacher from the northeast of Portugal whom he had met years before, in Coimbra. She arrived in Mozambique at the end of 1930. In Mozambique, work assignments for both parents meant periods of separation for the couple, and Knopfli divided his time between his parents. He grew up on the school grounds playing with children of all races, while his mother worked in a racially integrated school. Knopfli credits his profoundly antiracism stance to his upbringing.

Early in his life Knopfli started to read politically engaged poetry from local authors who criticized the colonial regime which profoundly influenced him He also read poetry ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

film critic, author, and producer, was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He was one of nine children born to his parents. His father, Lou Mitchell, worked two blue-collar jobs at a laundry and a dairy farm to support the family. Despite the fact that he dropped out for a time, Mitchell graduated from Wayne State University, where he majored in English. While he was in college, he started his career reading his movie reviews on Detroit public radio. But it was his people-savvy that began his career in journalism. He found out where the prominent film critic Pauline Kael was about to conduct a television interview and ended up accompanying her to the interview, thus gaining a powerful mentor who would go on to recommend him for a job at the Detroit Free Press.

He didn t get that job but he went on ...

Article

Debbie Clare Olson

filmmaker, producer, director, playwright, writer, and cultural critic, was born in Newark, New Jersey, but spent most of his childhood in North Carolina. Little is known about his family. After high school, Moss moved to Baltimore and attended Morgan State College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1929. He also attended Columbia University in New York City, where he formed a troupe of black actors called “Toward a Black Theater.” The troupe toured around New York City and performed at various black colleges.

Moss was active in the theater and radio and acted in his first film, The Phantom of Kenwood, in 1933. The film was directed by Oscar Micheaux, one of the more prolific early black filmmakers. Between 1932 and 1933 Moss wrote three dramas—“Careless Love,” “Folks from Dixie,” and “Noah”—for a radio series called The Negro Hour ...

Article

George Ogola

Kenyan novelist, actor, and newspaper humorist and cultural critic, was born in 24 October 1954 in Nyeri, Central Kenya, a place he immortalized in his newspaper column, “Whispers,” as “the slopes of Mount Kenya,” a literal reference to the region’s mountainous topography. He was Octavia Muthoni and Elijah Mutahi Wahome’s first child in a family of eight children (two girls and six boys). Mutahi attended Catholic schools, a life that graced his writings. Baptized Paul, a name he later dropped, Mutahi became an altar boy at his local church and later joined the seminary, in what should have led him to joining the Catholic priesthood. Despite being encouraged by his parents to train as a priest, Mutahi dropped out of the seminary in 1972 because he found the institution too strict for his liberal ideas Instead he joined Kirimara High School for his A level education the last two ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

French filmmaker and ethnographer active in Niger, was born on 31 May 1917 in Paris. His father was an adventurous naval officer who had traveled as far as Antarctica. His mother had a deep love of poetry and painting. Their son would combine his parents’ interests in his later life.

The Rouch family moved often in Jean’s early life, and he spent time in Algeria, Morocco, and Germany. In 1937, he entered the École des Ponts et Chausées to study engineering. Rouch did so at the behest of his father rather than out of a real interest in the subject matter. However, Rouch found plenty of opportunities to take other courses outside of engineering and science.

In his last year of studies Rouch met anthropologist Maurice Griaule whose work on Dogon communities in West Africa would later be one of the most well known and controversial examples of French ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

As a pioneer of ethnographic filmmaking, which documents the lives, customs, and cultures of ethnic groups, Jean Rouche developed styles and techniques that influenced a generation of African moviemakers. Rouche's mother was a painter and his father was a naval explorer. Born in Paris, Rouche trained to be an engineer. He graduated from a prestigious Parisian engineering college in 1941 and immediately left Nazi-occupied France for the freer West African colony of Niger.

Rouche was hired to oversee the construction of a road, but lack of equipment halted the project. The engineer, however, had taken an interest in aspects of Songhai culture, including spirit possession ceremonies conducted by African workers he had befriended. Fascinated by the rites and curious to learn more, Rouche returned to France, where he enrolled in a doctoral program in anthropology and studied with the famous ethnographer Marcel Griaule Taking a break from his ...

Article

Z’étoile Imma

South African journalist, antiapartheid activist, writer, and film producer, was born in the Orlando district of Soweto township in South Africa. Her father, scholar Jonathan Mandlenkosi Sikakane, coauthor of the first English–Zulu dictionary (1972), was son of the prominent African National Congress (ANC) founding member and early black minister of the South African Lutheran Church, the Reverend Absolum Mbulawa Sikakane. Her mother, Amelia Nxumalo, a schoolteacher and seamstress, was descended from Swazi royalty from her maternal side. In her family’s attempt to protect her from the degrading and racist state-mandated curriculum institutionalized by the Bantu Education Act, Joyce Sikakane was sent to primarily private and Catholic schools where she was fortunate to receive a more-balanced and sound education. Upon her graduation from secondary school in 1963 Sikakane refused to attend one of the segregated Tribal Colleges and with the encouragement of her English teacher decided to pursue a career ...