The reading group took on a different form last Thursday when Roshini Kempadoo (the first Stuart Hall Library Animateur) and Library staff screened an extract from Martina Attille’s Dreaming Rivers (1988) and Zineb Sedira’s video artwork Silent Sight (2000).
Thanks to everyone who attended. A recording of the discussion will soon be available via the library website. You can also listen to recordings of our previous reading group sessions.
The films are strikingly different, conceived in separate geographical time and space, but it was possible to draw parallels between them. In both films, the narrative focus is on the figure of the mother- in both cases a migrant – who is absent, but also very much present in the lives of the children (in the case of Dreaming Rivers) or the child (looking at her mother who wears a veil, in Silent Sight) who speak about her.
Roshini contextualised the group discussion by referring to critical writing on Attille and Zedira’s work, and also by highlighting the historical and cultural contexts in which they were made, including the importance of communities and networks (Attille was a member of the Sankofa Collective, for example) and the availability of funding for the arts. The discussion broadened to consider issues of representation of difference in media images, as well as in the processes of cultural production.
The latest UK Census statistics had been publicly announced the day before, and one of the group participants recognised the relevance of this in relation to thinking about representation, specifically the palpable anxiety expressed by some sections of the media about the proportion of ‘foreign-born’ individuals now living in Britain – that communities once considered to be ‘ethnic minorities’ were now not necessarily in the minority in some British cities – and what are the underlying reasons for such anxiety? As perceptions and formations of cultural identity become more complex against the background of rapidly changing politics, how can this be articulated and analysed through art, media and the image?
These questions were considered in detail, particularly from the personal perspective of individuals engaged in their own processes of identity formation, and their participation in engaging with, and participating in cultural media practices.
Attille, Martina and Maureen Blackwood, ‘Black Women and Representation’, in Charlotte Brunsdon (ed.), Films for Women (London: British Film Institute, 1986). ESS FIL
Diawara, Manthia, ‘The Nature of Mother in Dreaming Rivers’, in Black American Literature Forum, vol. 25, no.2, Black Film Issue (Summer, 1991), pp.283-298. *
‘Martina Attille’, in Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Women Film Directors: an International Bio-Critical Dictionary (Westport, Conn.; London: Greenwood Press, 1995), 23-26. REF WOM.
Moore, Lindsay, ‘Border Crossings, Translations’, in Arab, Muslim, Woman: Voice and Vision in Postcolonial Literature and Film (London: Routledge, 2009), 128-141. ESS MOO
Sedira, Zineb, ‘Mapping the Illusive’, in David A. Bailey and Gilane Tawadros (eds.) Veil: Veiling, Representation and Contemporary Art (London: Iniva, 2003), 56-71.
* not held at Stuart Hall Library. Available via Jstor.
The reading group returns next year, details to be confirmed. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org