Ousmane Sembène

Ousmane Sembène (1987) by Guenter Prust (Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0)On 9 June 2007, Senegalese film director, producer and writer Ousmane Sembène died at the age of 84. The Los Angeles Times considered him one of the greatest authors of Africa and he has often been called the "father of African film".

Ousmane Sembène was born on January 1, 1923, in the Casamance region of southern Senegal. He left school at 14 and moved to Dakar, where he worked as a bricklayer, plumber, and apprentice mechanic until he was drafted into the Senegalese Tirailleurs (a corps of the French Army). His later World War II service was with the Free French Forces. After the war, he returned to his home country. In 1947 he participated in a long railroad strike, on which he later based his seminal novel God's Bits of Wood (1960).

Late in 1947, he stowed away to France, where he worked at a Citroën factory in Paris and then on the docks at Marseille, becoming active in the French trade union movement. Ousmane Sembène taught himself to read and write in French and in 1956 published his first novel, Le Docker noir (Black Docker), based on his experiences in Marseille.

About 1960 Ousmane Sembène developed an interest in motion pictures. He realized that his written works would reach only the cultural elites, but that films could reach a much broader African audience. After studying at the Moscow Film School, he returned to Africa and started to produce films. Recurrent themes of his films are the history of colonialism, the failings of religion, the critique of the new African bourgeoisie, and the strength of African women.

Ousmane Sembène’s mastery and originality served as an inspiration for later filmmakers. He won prizes at the Venice Film Festival in 1968 (for “Mandabi”) and 1988 (for “Camp de Thiaroye”), and at Cannes in 2004 (for “Moolaadé).

(Source: Wikipedia, edited)

Selected publications


Ousmane Sembene : writer, filmmaker, and revolutionary artist / Ernest Cole; Oumar Chérif Diop. - Trenton : Africa World Press, [2016]

Ousmane Sembène and the politics of culture / Lifongo J.Vetinde; Tidiane Amadou. - Lanham MD [etc.] : Lexington Books, cop. 2015

God's bits of wood / Ousmane Sembène. - London [etc.] : Heinemann, 1981

Ô pays, mon beau peuple! : roman / Ousmane Sembène.- Paris : Presses pocket, 1975

Le docker noir / Ousmane Sembène. - Paris : Présence africaine, 1973


Sembène! : the inspiring story of the father of African cinema / Samba Gadjigo; Jason Silverman. - New York, NY : Kino Lorber, cop. 2015

Black girl / Ousmane Sembène; Mbissine Thérèse Diop. - [New York] : New Yorker Video, 2005

Moolaadé / Ousmane Sembène; Fatoumata Coulibaly. - London : Artificial Eye, 2004

Xala = The curse / Ousmane Sembène; Thierno Leye; Samba Dabare Samb. - London : Academy video, 1995

Guelwaar / Ousmane Sembène. - Paris : Médiatheque trois mondes, 1991

For more publications see the ASCL Library Catalogue or listen to the BBC Radio 4 podcast: Ousmane Sembene - The Father Of African Film

Niaye (1964) - Ousmane Sembène


Timeline of Senegalese film directors via Wikidata and DBpedia