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From orality to visuality: the question of aesthetics in African cinema

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In my essay, I argue against the schism between tradition and modernity in African film criticism that has produced a discourse of the indigenization of the medium based on the economy of African oral traditions and performances. In turn, this discourse of orality has preserved dichotomies that need to be contested in order to address current expressions in African film. My attempt is to shift the theoretical paradigm towards a deconstructive postcolonial project to assess, rework and negotiate the oppositional positions and confrontational practices that have highlighted most critical approaches. My analysis also draws attention to Third Cinema and cinematic semiotics, for the questions of spatiality and temporality are pivotal in the multidimensional and dynamic relationship between the film-maker and the viewer.
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Keywords: Third Cinema; Third Space; deconstruction; orality; postcoloniality; semiotics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Rochester.

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film.
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