« I insult you, the West
But I always insult you softly
For you and I
Are like roving blood »
Sony Labou Tansi,
La Vie privée de Satan
We will still be speaking about the 11 September in a long time from now. People who claim that it is a minor disaster compared with the major disasters of the Southern countries limit themselves to a dubious comparison. The destruction of the Twin Towers poses the question of contemporary fundamentalism and through it, that of religion and the sacred more brutally than any other event before.
The South is telling the secularised West that it cannot evacuate immemorial questions so easily, that it cannot refuse to address them. We, of course, by no means defend the legitimacy of blind terrorism, and absolutely do not hold with the « it serves them right » attitudes expressed in some quarters. We simply recognise that, along with an ensemble of other less spectacular actions such as the anti-globalisation forums, it is part of an essential questioning of the North and its propensity for global suicide.
Commentators have insisted on the fact that the 11 September has forced the United States to remember that they are not alone and cannot hope to economically dominate the planet without showing a degree of ecological and geopolitical responsibility beyond their own interests. How long can we continue to play at being Narcissus without putting the world in danger? For confusing oneself with one’s image boils down to evacuating this ever-present third-party, this troublesome other, the exception-to-the-rules, the stranger within or at large in society, the different. It’s the « axis of evil ». The target is defined and nations (read: peoples) that incarnate all that we refuse are demonised. And violence is unleashed.
From now on, cultures from elsewhere pose an enormous challenge to this negativity at the very root of violence. They force the cultures of the North to examine themselves from within. We can only see ourselves in the other when we question ourselves about our own identities. Film plays a primordial role in this respect. The image disrupts narcissism; it restores the mirror. We recognise ourselves by recognising the other in us. Film thus re-poses the question of the absent third-party and constantly puts the question of the sacred on the agenda.
It is the lack of abstraction in their vision of God, and thus their lack of modernity, that made the 11 September kamikazes rearguard fighters. Film, on the contrary, restores the myth, uncertainty, doubt. It questions values, questions love and the divine part in each and every one of us. Whether denouncing its deviancies and abuses, or magnifying its cultural imprint, by focusing on religions and beliefs, African films place the accent on the part missing in the individual. Rather than filling it in, cramming, padding it out to ward off the anguish of the void, African cinemas accept the discrepancy of the mirror and dare to pose the question of the sacred to cast off negativity. Far from preaching for or against one church or another, they thereby open the door that of a surpassing of illusion, that of the recognition of the other and the possible relation between human beings.
It is a vast subject and we definitely intend to come back to the question of the sacred in Africa’s cultural forms. This dossier is a first step, a contribution proposed by the Racines Noires Festival (with whom we already published » The Role of Music in Black Film », Africultures 37 in 2001 and « Black Actors », Africultures 27 in 2000). It documents a subject that the film world rarely broaches, before the more ample reflections induced by this turn of the century’s troubled climate.
///Article N° : 5576