“Africa is not only a continent of war and crisis. There is also an African that is Alive and well, and is often borne by women.” – the film opens with those words by Odile Sorgho-Moulinier of the United Nations Development Program which predates author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s popular TED Talk, “The Danger of the Single Story.” Both, in effect, calls to action for those outside of continental Africa (some who actually believe it’s a country), who have been fed a “single” story for centuries, to challenge themselves in the often rather limited ways in which they perceive the continent and the people who live within it.
Directed by Claudine Pommier, this 50-minute-long 2007 documentary, titled “The Power of Art: Women’s Voices In Africa,” explores how contemporary African women who choose to be professional artists deal with the stereotypes associated with being an African and a woman. The film also explores the role professional artists throughout Africa may play in addressing the challenges women are faced with on the continent.
Claudine Pommier is a Canadian filmmaker and visual artist whose credits include “Toumani Diabaté,” “The Voice of the Kora” and “The Art of Women of Tiebele.” She is also the founder and executive director of the Arts in Action Society. She has had exhibitions in Canada, France, Mexico, Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, the US and North Africa.
When asked what drew her to her documentary’s subject, she said: “I worked with artists in African countries, in workshops, exhibitions, mural paintings. In most cases, I was the only woman, which was quite intriguing. So I decided to look for women artists, and make a documentary film about what I would find.”
And adding that the film tracks how women artists are changing perceptions of themselves and their countries, Pommier also says: “There is no doubt that art is vital for women to express their views about their identity, their rights within conservative societies that don’t accept them as culture producers.”
Watch “The Power of Art: Women’s Voices in Africa” in full, below (or add it to your weekend viewing list):