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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 ...