Cultivating a Community of Viewers in Africa: How Sissako Frames Spectatorship and Performance in His Films

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Critical discussion of Abderrahmane Sissako's major films, Life on Earth (1998), Waiting for Happiness (2002), Bamako (2006), and Timbuktu (2014), explores issues related to spectatorship, live performance, and intertextuality. In particular, this essay looks at how this filmmaker frames spectatorship within his film narratives to bring the process of image-making up for reconsideration. These self-reflexive moments are examined in relation to film as an art form, issues of genre, and the history of cinema. The essay also looks at how live performances are embedded alongside scenarios of audiovisual spectatorship to draw our attention to the formation of audiences in different African settings, and to suggest an analogy between live and recorded performances. Some attention is also given to intertextuality and how Sissako references classic films by Ousmane Sembene and Djibril Diop Mambety to cultivate an awareness of film history in his viewers. By drawing on and developing insights from contributions by Karin Barber, Tsitsi Jaji, and Akin Adesokan the essay seeks to define the importance of these meta-cinematic elements in the film narratives of one of the most impactful filmmakers of his generation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-52
Number of pages26
JournalBlack Camera
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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