Cinemas of Freedom and Alienation: Frantz Fanon and Postcolonial Existentialism

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Taking my title from a recent translation of Frantz Fanon’s less well-known work, I’d like to return to the engagement between Existentialism and two examples of what we might call postcolonial cinema: Come Back, Africa (Lionel Rogosin, South Africa, 1959) and Ousmane Sembène’s Le Noir de… (Black Girl, Senegal, 1966). I will concentrate on one scene in each film and explore how these encapsulate the hope and despair that Existentialist philosophy seems so apt at analysing. In one, a group of radical journalists discuss the problem of apartheid over a few beers until Miriam Makeba arrives and sings two songs. In the other, a young woman commits suicide just when things seem to be on the turn for the better. While Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and Wretched of the Earth (1961) are strongly influenced by his experiences as a psychiatrist in France and Algeria, I wish here to tease out Fanon’s engagement with Existentialism and how this might help us to think through these two scenes of despair and possibility. I will also discuss some of the writing of Can Themba, one of the journalists who appears in the shebeen scene with Makeba.
Period8 Dec 2021
Held atQueen Margaret University, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Existentialism
  • Frantz Fanon
  • Postcolonialism
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Can Themba
  • Miriam Makeba
  • Ousmane Sembene
  • Senegal
  • South Africa