Earlier this semester we screened “Concerning Violence“. I wrote a little something about it here. But before the film I had also given a presentation on Africa which attempted to dispel a lot of myths about it. While this film which is set in Africa is about violence, it is imperative to know that Africa is much more than a land of violence. In an African history course I took I was made to sit down and actually write about this subject so I thought I’d share it here:
The word Africa comes from the Latin word Afri. Originally the name was meant to describe one tribe which the Romans had known from Libya. The term then came to be used to describe the entire expansive and diverse continent. This is an illustrative example from ancient Western culture to show how simplistic the Western view of Africa has been for a very long time.
In his work The Invention of Africa, philosopher V.Y. Mudimbe points out that African unity was not a concept on the continent before European contact. Blackness and Africanness are descriptions of an “Other”; as something different in such a way from Europeanness. Africans are described altogether by their relative difference to Europeans rather than their own characteristics. This results in a vast homogenization of Africans in the Western psyche, and we can clearly see that present today in what Chimamanda Adichie calls the ‘Single Story of Africa’.
The following is the entirety of a film review I wrote for this film in my Post-Colonial African History course at uOttawa.
“Concerning Violence” is a 2014 documentary film by Swedish director, Göran Olsson about colonialism in Africa. The film’s narration consists of quotes from psychologist Frantz Fanon’s magnum opus, Les Damnés de la Terre (1961) read by Lauryn Hill, interspersed with Swedish found-footage and interviews. Les Damnés de la Terre was Fanon’s exposition of colonized peoples’ psyche. He was inspired to write it by his work as a war-time psychologist in French Algeria during the Algerian war. Fanon was, himself, a colonized person, coming from the French colony of Martinique in the Caribbean.
The film consists of nine chapters and a preface by Dr. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. The nine chapters explore decolonization in several parts of Africa including Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, the former Rhodesia, Liberia and others. The preface is an analysis by a professor from Columbia University regarding false interpretations of Fanon’s work, and highlighting women’s roles in decolonization movements (which is focused on in chapter 7 of the film). Though the film may seem to some, as the book has seemed to many (including Jean Paul Sartre who wrote the preface for Damnés after Fanon’s death) an encouragement for revolutionary violence, it is, in fact, a dispassionate exposition of revolutionary violence in the decolonization process. As Bhakti Shringarpure wrote in The Guardian, Fanon’s work as a war-time psychologist normalized him to revolutionary violence, he had no conception of inciting it; it already existed all around him.
For those who missed this Saturday’s event, we watched Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. From its release in 1993 until 2003 when the same producers released The Corporation it was the most successful documentary in Canadian history. It can be viewed for free on YouTube here.
At 44 minutes a list of corporations that monopolized the media was listed. I gave a brief presentation at the show, talking about this phenomenon and how pertinent it is today. In fact, the concentration of corporate media domination is much worse today, where rather than being dominated by tens of companies, there’s a meagre six companies controlling 90% of the media in the United States as shown in the picture above. Canada is not hugely different and also has an astonishingly low amount of diversity due to corporate media ownership.
Last Saturday night we hosted the independent Canadian film Line in the Sand, and its co-director Jean-Philippe Marquis. A film about pipelines, it was even more than the journalistic experience it presents itself as. The cinematography pops off the screen, along with an earthy arrangement of folk music to keep the beat of the film. At one point a sombre interview comes to an close, and rather than shifting to any music or hurrying to another interview the filmmakers decided to take their time. The screen is filled with shots of mountainous vistas, lakes and colourful wildlife in total silence, and the content of the film strikes you head on. You realize exactly what’s at stake.
Last night we had a presentation by Professor Denis Rancourt. He started off the talk reminiscing over the room our event was held in. Marion 150 had been the classroom for the Science course on activism that Denis had helped start back in 2006. Malalai Joya, who was a Member of Parliament in Afghanistan at the time, had been a speaker at the only lecture of the SCI1101 course. The course was short lived and cancelled after only one lecture.
But tonight was not about Denis’ past, it was about cancer and the medical industry. Broken into three parts, context, research and treatment, he discussed all of his findings after reviewing “over one hundred” medical articles concerning cancer, communicating with hosts of researchers, and synthesizing his findings with his own scientific knowledge.