Manthia Diawara

Manthia Diawara was born in Mali, West Africa. He is a distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and Film at New York University. Diawara was educated in Guinea-Conakry, Bamako (Mali) and Paris (France), before migrating to the United States to pursue his studies. Manthia Diawara is a prolific writer and filmmaker. His essays on art, cinema and politics have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, LA Times, Libération, Mediapart and Artforum. He is the author of two autobiographical books: In Search of Africa (Harvard University Press, 2000) and We Won’t Budge: An African Exile in the World (Basic Books, 2008). He has published several books on African and African American cinema. Diawara’s notable films include: An Opera of the World (2017), Negritude: A Dialogue between Soyinka and Senghor (2016), Édouard Glissant, One World in Relation (2010), Maison Tropicale (2008) and Rouch In Reverse (1995).

Both the work and the biography of Manthia Diawara (Bamako, Mali, 1953) are marked by a personal experience and a deep academic and intellectual knowledge of black African and Afro-American history and culture. Writer, filmmaker, critic and professor of comparative literature and cinema, Diawara follows in his films the precepts of ethnographic cinema by auteurs such as Jean Rouch, whose importance is both acknowledged and questioned in Rouch in Reverse (1995). Describing the film, Diawara explains: “I made this film on Rouch as a rite of passage for myself. [...] I wanted to pass through Rouch in order to render visible new African voices and images: the ones that defy stereotype and primitivism”. This desire to subvert the conventional dynamics of anthropology, turning the former “object of study” (the black African) into the questioning agent, is what drives the majority of Diawara’s films. In them, it is the director who leads the narrative in the scene, asking questions, looking for explanations, taking on the Socratic role of someone who admits (or pretends) to not knowing in order to get to the heart of things. 

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