School of Arts (Journal Articles)

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    Science-women: Arcane knowledge and African spirituality in independent African-American cinema of the 1990s
    (African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, 2020) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    This article explores the significant role played by arcane knowledge and expressions of African spirituality in the iconography of powerful black women in three films directed by independent African-American filmmakers in the 1990s: Sankofa (Haile Gerima, 1993, USA), Mother of the River (Zeinabu irene Davis, 1995, USA), and Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 1997, USA). My discussion draws on the orature and legendary tales of West African-based cosmologies in the African diasporas of the Americas and the concept (and practice) of ‘conjure’ in African–American cultures. It argues that heroic black women characters possessing extraordinary or supernatural powers not only predate the current vogue of cinematic superheroism, but that the iconography of such ‘science-women’ is embedded in culturally specific, Africanrooted cosmological, epistemological and spiritual contexts. I argue that the feminine power celebrated in the films by the independent African-American filmmakers discussed here draw on legendary and historical accounts of women in African diasporic oral, literary and spiritual traditions for their cinematic storytelling to construct an affirmative and paradigmatic model of black female heroism based on empowering African spiritual beliefs and arcane knowledge.
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    Traversing the cinemascape of contemporary South Africa: A peripatetic journey
    (2018-04) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    This article offers a series of observations, reflections, descriptions and opinions as stopping points on a tour of the multifaceted cinemascape of South Africa. It addresses how discourses of cinema in South Africa conflate the development of a distinctive South African cinema with the development of a robust film industry—concealing the structural barriers to entry, the development of indigenous aesthetics, and domestic audience development. It maps the emergence of several nodes of film production and consumption for non-cinema platforms as well as several subnational “mini-industries” characterized by ethnolinguistic markers of appeal. The author warns that the sole use of a national cinema lens to look at cinema in South Africa blinds us to both the politics of identity in postapartheid South Africa as well as the variety of film-related activities that constitute film culture, arguing that film scholars would be better served by adopting a polycentric approach when attempting to map the cinemascape in contemporary South Africa.
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    The cinematic life of the Sistren Theatre Collective: Forays into biographical documentary
    (2016) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    This article explores two biographical video documentaries produced by the Sistren Theater Collective of Jamaica. Together, the documentaries, Miss Amy and Miss May and The Drums Keep Sounding, document the lives of three Jamaican women activists: Amy Bailey, May Farquharson and Louise Bennett-Coverley. Although video/film production never attained a prominent role in Sistren’s approach to its activism, which focused on participatory drama to address issues of concern to working-class black women, the documentaries produced in the 1980s and 1990s allowed the Collective to expand its reach beyond the limitations imposed by the geographical proximity necessary for live theater. The article examines the structuring devices of these two biographical documentaries and interrogates how the utilization of the medium of video raises class-based ambiguities within the Collective’s mission to celebrate the lives of Caribbean women.
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    Are the "boys" at Pixar afraid of little girls?
    (Journal of Film and Video, 2015) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    The notion that American animated films are somehow excluded from ideological concerns, that they are “ideologically empty,” so to speak, reflects a widespread perception within both the USA and South Africa that children’s films are just innocent, escapist, fun. Walt Disney himself was known to perpetuate this perception by, somewhat disingenuously, remarking that “we just make the pictures, and let the professors tell us what they mean” (quoted in Bell, Haas and Sells 1). Although sometimes tongue-in-cheek, I examine Pixar’s construction of little girls within the context of a brand image of Pixar’s animator-directors as “boys at heart”--that is, as Peter Pan types who have never really grown up. I explore whether Pixar’s films reflect a certain apprehension about little girls that can, perhaps, be likened to the way young boys often display a notable ambivalence toward girls. Pixar’s little girls—Hannah, Molly, Boo, Darla and Bonnie and Daisy—are not always so “sugar and spice and everything nice,” but rather embody toxicity to varying degrees (though not always seriously), becoming a source of fear, pain, or humiliation to a number of male characters in several Pixar films. What initially appears to suggest an aversion to little girls emerges as a more complex construction of little girls by the “boys” at Pixar.
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    Africanity and Orality in the Films/Videos of Women Filmmakers of the African Diaspora
    (Deep Focus: A Film Quarterly, 1998) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    In this essay, I consider the role of African cultural heritage and of oral tradition in selected films/videos by women filmmakers of the African Diaspora. for practical purposes, I limit the scope of my analysis to the works of a handful of filmmakers in the United States and the Caribbean: Julie Dash (USA), Euzhan Palcy (Martinique/France), Zeinabu irene Davis (USA), and Gloria Rolando (Cuba).
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    (Northwestern University, 1998) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    This dissertation presents a new conceptual framework, a "pan-African feminist" critical model, to examine how Euzhan Palcy of Martinique, Gloria Rolando and the late Sara Gómez of Cuba, and the Sistren Collective of Jamaica have negotiated - individually or collectively - the gender/race/class constraints within each of their societies in order to obtain access to the media of film and video. I examine the aesthetic, political, social and economic strategies utilized by these filmmakers to reinsert themselves into recorded versions of history, and/or to intervene in racist, (neo)colonial and/or patriarchal systems of oppression.
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    Women Screenwriters: South Africa
    (2014-08-31) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    Emerging from this research undertaken to map the presence of women screenwriters in the South African film industry, are two significant findings: first, an awareness that while a few women of colour have begun to enter the filmmaking sector, they remain at the margins of the mainstream film industry, writing primarily for documentaries and short films and, secondly, the complete absence of black African women screenwriters. The reasons for this are unclear, and suggest that further research is warranted into the structural factors that continue to hamper the participation of women of colour – and black African women, in particular – in the film industry in South Africa, other than as actresses.
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    From "ghetto" to mainstream: Bollywood in South Africa
    (Scrutiny2, 2008) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    This essay explores two aspects of the Bollywood "phenomenon" as it has played out, in the past decade, in South Africa - a part of the Indian diaspora where the popularity of the Hindi-Indian cinema has an established history. Firstly, the article maps the expansion of Bollywood beyond the Indian diasporic audience to so-called "crossover" audiences, a phenomenon I have labelled the "mainstreaming" of Bollywood in South Africa. Secondly, it examines developments in relation to the expansion of Bollywood - South African film industry co-operation, including Bollywood's use of South Africa for location shooting.
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    Sarita and the Revolution: Race and Cuban Cinema
    (European Review of Latin American and Carribean Studies, 2007-04) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    This essay explores questions of race and ethnicity in relation to Cuban cinema during the height of the Revolution, focusing in particular on one filmmaker, the late Sara Gómez. This essay argues that while contemporary filmmakers in Cuba have benefited from a growing acceptance of African heritage as an integral component of Cuban culture, Sara Gómez’s interest in exploring matters of racial inequalities in the Revolutionary Cuba of the 1960s and ’70s forced her to negotiate a rather challenging political and social milieu in which official attitudes frowned upon the acknowledgement of racial discrimination as a contemporary phenomenon.
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    Afrocuban religions in Sara Gomez's one way or another and Gloria Ronaldo's Oggun
    (The Western Journal of Black Studies, 1998) Ebrahim, Haseenah
    This paper explores the depiction of Afrocuban religions in two films - Sara Gomez's One way or another(1974/1977) and Gloria Rolando's Oggun: Forever present(1991).A (Western) feminist's analysis of Gomez's One way or another characterizes Abakua and Santeria as "voodoo" - not only collapsing three different Afro-Carribean religious traditions, but also reflecting Marxistbiases that exclude (ironically) a recognition that Gomez's depictions of Abakua and Santeria reflect a gendered perspective.Rolando's Oggun reflects a recent trend in Cuban cinema to celebrate Afrocuban religious practices.Oggun's stunning visuals, compelling song and dance sequences, and fascinating mythology provoke a desire to understand the role and impact of this remarkable religious tradition in Cuban society.