Faculty News

Dr. Jean-Blaise Samou launches new filmfest to celebrate African History

Dr. Jean-Blaise Samou with Shawna Murphy, SMU Outreach and Engagement Librarian, at his book launch on February 4.

When celebrating African Heritage Month here in North America, it’s vital to remember that African history goes back much farther than the diaspora. Dr. Jean-Blaise Samou aims to highlight this in Kemet Udjat, a new film festival he’s launching February 24 to 26 at Saint Mary’s.

“The history of Black people started in Africa,” says Dr. Samou, Assistant Professor of Francophone & Intercultural Studies in the Modern Languages & Classics department.

“So it’s good to celebrate African Heritage, but if we cannot trace it to its African roots, then it would only be a partial history. It’s important for us to see what Black people are doing in the diaspora but also what they are doing in other places in the world, and especially how they have contributed (or are contributing) to the history of the world.”

Loosely translated, the name Kemet Udjat indicates “the eye of Africa”, and refers to a different perspective on African heritage, says Dr. Samou, who hopes to make it an annual event.

Here’s the lineup:

Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man (52 mins, 2006) – A documentary about “the African Che” Thomas Sankara, former president of Burkina Faso; directed by Robin Shuffield
Monday, February 24, 5:00-7:30 pm, Loyola L188

Lumumba (115 mins, 2000) – A film about Congolese leader Patrice Émery Lumumba, at the time Congo-Kinshasa achieved independence from Belgium in 1960; directed by Raoul Peck
Tuesday, February 25, 5:00-7:30 pm, Loyola L188

“The history of urbanism and racism in Halifax, 1880–2010” – Presented in French via livestream, this talk by Dr. Ted Rutland of Concordia University is taking place at the Alliance Française conference in Toronto.
Wednesday, February 26, 8:00-10:30 pm, Atrium AT101

Both films put the spotlight on revolutionary African leaders from the recent past who are not very well known here on this continent, says Dr. Samou. Dr. Rutland’s lecture will examine how 20th century planning and modern urbanism have affected racialized communities here, drawing from his 2018 book, Displacing Blackness: Planning, Power, and Race in Twentieth Century Halifax.

“‘Africa’ as a concept refers not only to the African continent, but more broadly to the African diaspora, and to African cultures,” says Dr. Samou. He has been in touch with the Halifax Black Film Festival to discuss ways the two events can complement and support each other going forward.

Born in Cameroon, and a graduate of the University of Calgary, Dr. Samou arrived at Saint Mary’s last summer, after working as a faculty member at the University of Alberta and Director of the Global Studies program at Ripon College in Wisconsin, USA. On February 4, the Patrick Power Library hosted a launch for his new book, African Cultural Production and the Rhetoric of Humanism (Lexington Books, 2019), which he co-edited with the late Dr. Lifongo J. Vetinde of Lawrence University, in Appleton, WI.

In the book, scholars from different disciplines focus on representations of humanistic ideals and communal solidarity in African art and culture. In their examinations, the contributors call for a return to the traditional African vision of humanism also known as “Ubuntu”, which was more prevalent in precolonial times.