From the very choice of her name, taken from the songs of Lautréamont, Sarah Maldoror (1929–2020) always combined her vision as a poet with a political expression that rejects institutionalized narratives to compose each of her works: whether written or cinematographic, which add up to more than twenty productions between documentaries and feature films. Different facets of pan-African thought and leading figures in processes of resistance are striking features in Maldoror’s work.
A French-Antillean in the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, she filmed the colonial war through the eyes of a woman, in Sambizanga (1972) – a film being shown at the 35th Bienal – convinced that the struggle would be doomed to failure if it did not involve the entire population through actions in their daily lives and not merely as a military operation.
This work that reveals what has historically been invisibilized is also the artistic legacy built from the perspective of a person who, in Paris, 1956, was the only woman among the 63 delegates at the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists and contributed to the construction of a theater in which African presence supplanted servant characters, with the foundation of the company Les Griots.
When dealing with the work of Sarah Maldoror, it becomes unavoidable to address what could not be achieved. All the confrontations, of gender and race, as well as the First-Third World dynamics – today Global North-South – the complexities of the nation-states that emerged as a result of African decolonization from the mid-1950s onward, are still expressed in projects and scripts that have never been filmed and are therefore also part of the choreographies of the impossible. The findings among her personal documents reinforce, above all, her poetic and singular project in favor of the collective.
translated from Portuguese by mariana nacif mendes
Sarah Maldoror (Gers, France, 1929 – Paris, France, 2020) was a poet and filmmaker who directed more than 46 fiction and documentary films. Her feature film Sambizanga (1972) and her first short film, Monangambéé (1968), which won the Tours Film Festival and was selected for the Cannes Film Festival, were based on works by the writer Luandino Vieira. In 1956, she was one of the founders of the Black theater company Les Griots in Paris.