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The African Intellectual in Camp De Thiaroye

BY: Shon Levy | Category: Education | Submitted: 2010-07-07 21:27:14
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Article Summary: "How does the film present the African intellectual? Is it difficult to defy the beloved one?.."


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In Camp de Thiaroye, Sembene brings to the center of his discussion the ambivalent role of the African intellectual as one who has the power and responsibility to defy colonial oppression and its cruel logic, but cannot comply with it due to his own passion for the western culture.

Sergeant Diatta is an African intellectual who is aware of French's arrogance and unfairness towards Africa and Africans. Diatta is the African who can speak proper French to argue with the superiors on behalf of Africans, and be proud of his mastering of the colonial language. Also, Diatta is aware of the brutality of the colonizers who destroyed his relatives' village, but at the same time he is in love with French culture and values. He speaks an impeccable French and English but he has some difficult to communicate with the African soldiers who do not speak fluent English. It is worth noting the echo of Fanon's writing in the portrayal of this character; one of the fanonian moments is when Diatta has the first opportunity to walk by himself on the streets and runs into the whoredom with a hope to find a white woman; a woman like his beloved wife. In this context, the African woman Bintu is not the woman he expects, thus, he despises her. Somehow Diatta resembles the first President of Senegal who had created the Negritude Movement.

Diatta is a caricature of Senghor and of many African nationalists of this period. The ambivalence of Diatta shows that fighting the beloved France is not always possible.

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