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Archive for the ‘Senegal’ Category

FatouN'DiayeFatou N’Diaye (1980- ) is a French actress and model who was born in Senegal. She is not the dancer of the same name. Since 2001 she has appeared in both French film and television. Her best film to date is probably “Nha fala” (2003) though “A Sunday in Kigali” (2006) seems to be better known.

She was born in Saint-Louis in Sengal. Her native language is Wolof. When she was eight she left Senegal with her mother to live in France.

In 1997 at age 17 she was discovered by photographer Oliviero Toscani, who is famous for the United Colors of Benetton ads. He urged her to become a model. She is tall, thin and pretty

She is 5 foot 10 inches tall (1.78 m) and her measurements are 31.5-23-35 (80-58.5-89 cm), giving her a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of 0.66.

She did do some modelling, but her heart was set on acting. She wanted to go to drama school,  but then director Daniel Vigne asked her to play the lead in a made-for-television film he was making – even though she had no acting experience!

She spent  a few days with an actress who taught her the tricks of the trade and then did her best.

The film was “Fatou la Malienne” (2001). It was the true story of a woman from Mali who lived in France but was forced to get married. It got her noticed: 8 million people in France saw it.

After that she worked with the famous French actor Charles Aznavour. She loves jazz and he was able to tell her about all the jazz greats that he once knew.

In 2002 she had a small part in “Astérix et Obélix : Mission Cléopâtre”, starring Monica Bellucci. It was her first experience of a big film production.

In 2003 she starred in “Nha Fala” (“My Voice”), directed by Flora Gomes. It is a Portuguese-French-Luxembourger musical comedy (yes) set in France and Cape Verde.  It is in both French and Portuguese Creole.

She plays a mixed-race character who comes from a family where the women die if they sing. When she leaves Cape Verde for France she promises her mother that she will not sing. Not only did she forget her promise, she became a singer! People were amazed at how well she could sing. She came back to Cape Verde to prepare for her funeral – but she did not die!

N’Diaye says the film is about expressing yourself. Some see it as a metaphor for colonialism, about how trying to be white goes against being your true self – which is why her being mixed-race is important.

In 2006 she played the female lead in a French-Canadian film, “Un dimanche à Kigali” (“A Sunday in Kigali”). It is abouat a man who comes to Rwanda and falls in love with a woman there. Separated by the genocide he tries to find her.

Her next leading part was in “Tropiques amers” (2007), the first French television series about slavery in the French Caribbean. It is a historical drama set in Martinique in the late 1700s.

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aissa02

Note: Some of this post might not be strictly true: most of what is written about her is in French and my French is not very good! So corrections are welcomed.

Aïssa Maïga (1975- ) is a French actress who was born in Senegal. She is not just charming, beautiful and talented, she is also the highest-paid black actress in France and a regular at Cannes.

Some of her films:

  • “Les Poupées Russes” (2004) made her name in France. She plays the lover of Romain Duris.
  • “Paris, je t’aime” (2005) – she starred in this. See below for a bit of it I found on YouTube. Watch all the way to the end.
  • “Il faut quitter Bamako” (2006) showed that she can write and direct as well as act.
  • “Bamako” (2006), almost the same name as her own film, is probably her best performance to date. She played a bar singer, who always seems to be pictured as crying. Danny Glover was an executive producer, by the way.

As beautiful as she is, she is almost completely unknown in the English-speaking world. She does not even have an article in the English Wikipedia as of June 2009. I had seen her face before on the Internet, but I had no idea who she was until a commenter on this blog, Asha, brought up her name. Thanks, Asha!

Maiga was born in Dakar in Senegal. Her father, a journalist, came from Mali. Her mother is half Senegalese, half Gambian. The family moved to France when she was four. Her father died when she was eight.

After high school she did not know whether to study sociology or theatre. But then one night she saw “L’important c’est d’aimer” with Romy Schneider and knew she wanted to be a comedienne. So she chose theatre. A few months later, though, she dropped out of school and became a waitress. She thought the courses were heavy on theory, light on practice.

Her aunt, it turns out, was a comedienne and was able to train her. At 17 Maiga was acting in a musical comedy, “La nuit la plus longue”, something she did for three summers.

In 1996 she got her first part in a full-length film, “Saraka Bo”. It is a police drama that takes place in a black part of Paris. That led to parts in police dramas on television, something she did for years, but it also got her noticed by directors, like Claude Berri.

In 2005 she appeared in “French Beauty”, a television show that asked some of the great beauties of French film, like Bardot and Deneuve, what it is like to be a beautiful French woman.

Blacks in French film: Just like in Hollywood, most of the few parts there are for blacks play to stereotypes. But on top of that blacks are often seen as foreigners in France even when they grew up there, just like Asians in America.

She lives in both France and Senegal. She has two sons by her one-time boyfriend, Stephane Pocrain.

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Remarks:

CoumbaGawlo

That is Senegalese singer Coumba Gawlo singing Miriam Makeba’s first hit song, “Pata Pata”. The song has been done many times (click on the following links to hear them on YouTube):

I am surprised that no one in America has made a hit song out of it.

I like Gawlo’s version the best. I love that guitar at the beginning. It went to #2 in France in 1998. The words are in Xhosa. Xhosa is a South African language that has clicks in it and you can hear that in Makeba’s version.

Gawlo does some talking in her version. It is not Xhosa nor does it sound like French, so I am guessing it is Wolof.

Lyrics:

Saguguka sathi beka
(Nantsi, pata pata)
Saguguka sathi beka
(Yiyo, pata pata)
Yi yo mama yiyo mama
(Nantsi, pata pata)
Yi yo mama yiyo mama
(Yiyo, pata pata)

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senghor02Leopold Sedar Senghor (1906-2001) – his last name sounds like Song Gore – was a Senegalese poet, scholar and statesman. He was the first president of an independent Senegal, a French poet and one of the top black African thinkers of the 1900s, one of the founders of the negritude movement. He was also the first black African admitted to the French Academy, long the preserve of white men.

He was president of Senegal for 20 years, from 1960 to 1980. He was one of the few African leaders to leave office peacefully and one of the few who had a free press. People said he kissed up to the French too much. He said a country as poor as Senegal needs a friend.

Senghor was born in a small town along the Mamaguedy, 100 km south of Dakar, Senegal. He grew up Catholic in a land that was mostly Muslim. He went to a missionary school and loved to read French books. In time he became one of the top students in Senegal and won a scholarship to study in Paris.

So in 1928 he got on a ship to France and left Africa. Thus began what he called his 16 years of wandering.

In Paris he became friends with Aime Cesaire of Martinique and Leon Damas of French Guiana . Like Senghor, they found themselves caught between two words, one black, one white. The white world was tellling them it had all the answers, that their blackness was holding them back. Yet they found whites cold and stiff and full of themselves, living in “the world that has died of machines and cannons.”

So together they came up with negritude: the idea that black thought, feeling, art and ideas were just as good as those of Europe. It became a movement among black writers, an early form of black pride.

Senghor loved France and the French language and yet he also loved Africa too. He felt torn, something he wrote about in his poetry. He felt like he was two different people. Yet choosing to be just one would narrow him. So he chose neither and remained whole.

He got his degree from the University of Paris in 1935 and became a French and Latin teacher in France. Because he was black some of his students were surprised to see that he wore clothes!

Four years later war came. Senghor fought for France with the Tirailleurs Senegalais, France’s West African army. He spent two years in a Nazi German prison camp. There he wrote a book of French poetry.

After the war he represented Senegal in the French National Assembly. He pushed for greater freedom for Senegal, but not for outright independence. He also pushed for Senegal and French Sudan (now called Mali) to become one. He thought that so long as Africa remains divided into little countries it will remain weak and poor.

In 1962 his name was in the running for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He lost to John Steinbeck.

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Remarks:

A French poem by Senghor about the Tirailleurs Senegalais, the African soldiers who fought for the French Empire, particularly in the two world wars of the 1900s. Slam poem Manu performs.

Part of this translated into English (by M.A. Yemane):

Listen to me, Senegalese sharpshooters, beneath the solitude of the black earth and of death
In your solitude without eyes, without ears, more than my dark skin in the depths of the French provinces
without even the warmth of your comrades sleeping next to you
like the old days in the trenches
like the old days in the village under the baobab tree
Listen to me, black-skinned Senegalese sharpshooters, albeit without ears, without eyes
in your triple enclosure of night.

The whole thing in French:

Aux Tirailleurs Sénégalais morts pour la France

Voici le Soleil
Qui fait tendre la poitrine des vierges
Qui fait sourire sur les bancs verts les vieillards
Qui réveillerait les morts sous une terre maternelle.
J’entends le bruit des canons—est-ce d’Irun ?—
On fleurit les tombes, on réchauffe le Soldat Inconnu.
Vous, mes frères obscurs, personne ne vous nomme.
On vous promet 500 000 de vos enfants à la gloire des futurs morts, on les remercie d’avance, futurs morts obscurs
Die schwarze Schande !

Ecoutez-moi, Tirailleurs Sénégalais, dans la solitude de la terre noire et de la mort
Dans votre solitude sans yeux, sans oreilles, plus que dans ma peau sombre au fond de la Province
Sans même la chaleur de vos camarades couchés tout contre vous, comme jadis dans la tranchée, jadis dans les palabres du village
Ecoutez-moi, tirailleurs à la peau noire, bien que sans oreilles et sans yeux dans votre triple enceinte de nuit.

Nous n’avons pas loué de pleureuses, pas même les larmes de vos femmes anciennes
Elles ne se rappellent que vos grands coups de colère, préférant l’ardeur des vivants.
Les plaintes des pleureuses trop claires
Trop vite asséchées les joues de vos femmes comme en saison Sèche les torrents du Fouta
Les larmes les plus chaudes trop claires et trop vite bues au coin des lèvres oublieuses.

Nous vous apportons, écoutez-nous, nous qui épelions vos noms dans les mois que vous mourriez
Nous, dans ces jours de peur sans mémoire, vous apportons l’amitié de vos camarades d’âge.
Ah ! puissé-je un jour d’une voix couleur de braise, puissé-je chanter
L’amitié des camarades fervente comme des entrailles et délicate, forte comme des tendons.
Ecoutez-nous, morts étendus dans l’eau au profond des plaines du Nord et de l’Est.
Recevez le salut de vos camarades noirs, Tirailleurs Sénégalais

MORTS POUR LA REPUBLIQUE !

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