The mixed female figure was (unofficially) accepted as a body onto which white men could project and enact their sexual fantasies.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-03-02 01:35Z by Steven

“It is largely through the on-screen body of the mixed-race female that racial laws have been written and mixed-race issues have been explored.  The mixed female figure was (unofficially) accepted as a body onto which white men could project and enact their sexual fantasies.  Hence the popularity of mixed girls in chorus lines at all-white American clubs, known as ‘cafĂ©-au-lait cuties’ in the 1930s (5), and as performers in otherwise white films (see the careers of Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, Nina Mae McKinney, Dorothy Dandridge and Fredi Washington). As Suzanne Bost observes ‘throughout popular culture and literature, debates about the nature of mixed-race identity are mapped out on the body of a woman because thinking about racial mixing inevitably leads to questions of sex and reproduction’ (6). J. E. Smyth (7) confirms that in this way, women embody the past, present and future of race relations; mixed women are thus symbolic of the histories of racial mixing and possibilities of integration and equality.” —ZĂ©lie Asava

Beti Ellerson, “ZĂ©lie Asava: mixed-race identities and representation in Irish, U.S. and French cinemas,” African Women in Cinema Blog, (February 28, 2015). http://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/02/zelie-asava-mixed-raced-identities-and.html.

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ZĂ©lie Asava: mixed-race identities and representation in Irish, U.S. and French cinemas

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-01 03:50Z by Steven

ZĂ©lie Asava: mixed-race identities and representation in Irish, U.S. and French cinemas

African Women in Cinema Blog
2015-02-28

Beti Ellerson, Director
Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema

Interview with ZĂ©lie Asava by Beti Ellerson, February 2015.

ZĂ©lie Asava of Irish-Kenyan parentage with English citizenship, is a lecturer in film and media theory and national cinemas at Dundalk IT and University College Dublin. She explores mixed-raced identities and its representation in Irish, U.S. and French cinemas.

ZĂ©lie could you talk a bit about yourself?

I was born in Dublin to Irish and Kenyan parents. Having lived in London previously, they decided to raise me there. As an adult I moved back to Ireland, to go home and develop my career in academia. While, Dublin is a fascinating city with a great cultural scene, I found the experience much more troubling than anticipated due to the growth in racism during the economic boom of the late ‘90s/early 2000s (see my piece for The Evening Herald newspaper).

As an undergraduate, I became involved in student anti-racism movements at University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, and worked with community groups. During my MA at the University of Sussex and PhD at University College Dublin I studied the representations of black and mixed-race characters in French and American cinema, while pursuing work as an actress and journalist. In my professional life I have also worked in politics and equal opportunities consultancy, and lived in Canada and France, before becoming a lecturer.

How has your identity influenced your interest in racial representations?

This personal and academic experience prompted me to explore what it meant to be black and Irish from a theoretical and social perspective. I studied the history of black and mixed-race people in Ireland and their representation onscreen, and began to develop research papers on the subject which finally became the book, The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Identities on Irish Film and Television (Peter Lang, 2013).

Due to the cinematic context of my research, the mixed characters I analyse are mostly of African/European heritage, mostly female and mostly heterosexual (following dominant representations). By uncovering, deconstructing and critiquing these representations my work contributes to opening up spaces for new filmmakers, new screen visualizations of raced characters and new understandings of race and racism…

Read the entire interview here.

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Claude Haffner: “Black Here, White There” | “Footprints of My Other”

Posted in Africa, Arts, Autobiography, Interviews, Women on 2014-09-14 21:30Z by Steven

Claude Haffner: “Black Here, White There” | “Footprints of My Other”

African Women in Cinema Blog
2012-03-15

Beti Ellerson, Director/Directrice
Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema

Interview with Claude Haffner and translation from French by Beti Ellerson, March 2012.

An interview with Franco-Congolese filmmaker Claude Haffner by Beti Ellerson regarding her documentary film, Footprints of My Other (2012)

Beti Ellerson: Claude, a moving autobiographical story about your place “in between”—black and white as a racial signifier, Africa and Europe—their contrasting beliefs and customs, class, status and gender—what you represent as an Alsatian and its contradictions as a Congolese. I also discern your need to redefine yourself in relationship to your father and mother—a liberation, as you call it, and finally as an expectant mother, your research on the formation of identity and how you will transmit your own multiple identity to your child with the hopes that she will be able to find, as you have between black and white, her own colour. Some reflections?

Claude Haffner: Initially, I wanted to make a film that focused solely on the diamond operations and the turmoil that I discovered the first time I went to the Congo. I saw the poverty in which my mother’s family lived, and I wanted to talk about this heartbreaking reality in a different manner than that presented by the media, that is to say without the tendency to dwell on the sordid side of life, which I hate. I looked for a way to educate and at the same time not bore the viewer, but also that he or she may be able to identify with the story, whether the person is black, white or any other colour of the rainbow. I knew that to bring it to the screen, I had to enter into the story. But I did not at all imagine that I would talk about myself, my history, my bi-raciality.

Then I contacted the South African producer/director Ramadan Suleman to propose the project. Ramadan read the draft and immediately called me back to say that he liked the idea a lot and he was prepared to produce the film, however he thought that I had to be more involved in it since it was my family, my country, my feelings; that this aspect should be more pronounced. So I added my individual history to the story.

But what is wonderful about the documentary is that no matter how much one may write and rewrite the script, at the end it is the characters and the scenes that are shot that will decide the final product. The issue of culture, of being mixed-race, the place between father and mother, the transmission of identity to the child, none of these themes were written. They emerged during the filming. I had not planned to talk about skin colour with my cousins for example. It’s what is called the “magic of the documentary.” At least that’s the way I love films and how I would like to make them. Not knowing everything in advance about how the film will look, not forcing situations in order to relate the story, but rather leaving room for unanticipated situations. The film should redefine itself as the shooting unfolds in the same way that the filmmaker redefines herself in relation to her initial idea and to her subject. This is evident in the fact that in 2004 I could not foresee that I would be expecting a child after having filmed in the Congo, and that I would actually include myself, while pregnant, during the scenes in Alsace. Somehow, the film helped me to define my identity and my place between Europe and Africa and to become aware of the richness that I possess to have come from a double culture or perhaps I should say, multiple…

Read the entire article here.

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