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Diamonds at the meeting of her thighs: Representations of gender and sexuality in U-Carmen eKhayelitsha

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The heroine of Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novella, Carmen, appears as an archetypal femme fatale who lures unsuspecting men to their destruction by means of her manipulative sexuality. While Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera, Carmen, reveals the psychology of masculine anxieties, sexual jealousy and murderous rage, his character, Carmen, expresses her credo of autonomous sexuality, and can be seen as a prototypical modern woman. My article examines the representations of the female protagonist’s sexuality in a contemporary South African film that re-works the Carmen story in an African context. I argue that U-Carmen eKhayelitsha/Carmen in Khayelitsha, directed by Mark Dornford-May (2005), does not realize the potential significance of Carmen’s sexuality. I trace the ways in which dance is not used to good effect in the film. In addition, I show that the film highlights traditional masculinity in various ways, such as offering disturbing parallels between the ritual slaughter of a bull and the murder of Carmen. I conclude that U-Carmen eKhayelitsha displays revisionist and ambivalent gender politics.

Keywords: Carmen; U-Carmen eKhayelitsha; dance; gender; opera; sexuality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of KwaZulu-Natal

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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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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