To the announcement of the fourth ceremony of El Hadji Abdou Kadar Beye’s marriage to a third wife, a group of Senegalese businessmen and politicians who pride themselves of having expelled the colonisers and taken over the reins of power and capital, chant ‘Vivre l’Africanite’ (Long live Africanity!).
Xala (1975), takes us from the optimism of this nationalist chant to the story of our protagonist and third time groom-to-be, El-Hadji, who is inflicted with xala (Wolof term for impotence) and cannot complete the ultimate step to taking a new wife.
In this satirical work, Ousmane Sembene takes us through the struggle by this independence pioneer to affirm his virility and reclaim his dignity. The image of his impotence is cast a synecdoche of the failures of the postcolonial state – its inability like the protagonist to function. The protagonist women – his wives and daughter – are symbols themselves of a transforming nation and its negotiation between the tenuous binary of tradition and modernity.
Xala is an important commentary on the predicament of a postcolonial state, creatively satirized by a pioneer writer and filmmaker of the post-independence period. It speaks to the impotence of the immediate post-colonial state, the possibilities of a Pan-African future, African womanhood, amongst other themes. The text is heavy with symbolism as is typical of Sembene’s oeuvre.
The African Literature Book Club is delighted to be discussing Xala at our next meeting. We invite interested publics to watch the film adaptation by Sembene himself, and available to watch for free on YouTube with the link provided below:
We are also delighted to be inviting a guest moderator, Oluwatobiloba Akinde, who is a film programmer at the Thursday films series, run at the institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. He is also the co-coordinator of ‘Is that Jazz’, a film club at the Jazzhole (books and records store) in Lagos.
Tobi is a student of Law in the University and has over 3 years’ experience in film screenings and discussions in the University and beyond. A budding film maker himself, Tobi has been part of organizing the black history film festival in Ibadan.
To join us on Saturday June 20th, 15:00-16:30 BST, please sign up via our Eventbrite page, you will receive details on how to join our Zoom discussion via email the day before the event.