Teshome Gabriel, Nomadic Aesthetics and Black Independent Cinema

March 2, 2010 at 1:05 pm (Multicultural Lit)

I found many of Gabriel’s arguments about Nomadic culture and black cinema fairly problematic. First, he starts off by conflating all nomadic cultures, and categorizing the contributions of all nomadic cultures in two sentences. While I find his assertion that an aesthetic “without frontiers or boundaries” reductive and problematic, I also like it (396). However, I’m not sure that I actually like the idea that Gabriel is trying to express, and instead I have a sneaking suspicion that what  I like may be instead a romanticized idea of the nomad, created by the power that Gabriel is writing against, the power of Hollywood. Another idea of Gabriel’s that I find simultaneously alluring and problematic is his statement, “In black films there is often the depiction of journeys across space or landscape” (403). Claiming the idea of a “journey” as a space that is occupied by black cinema seems to at least imply the exclusion of other cultures. However, the story of a journey is one that transcends cultures, and is as old as literature itself, with some of our most famous examples of early literature being journey literature (thinking of the Odyssey, or the Anglo-Saxon poem “The Wanderer”). I think there is certainly a space within this tradition for black literature and black cinema, and the African-American community might have a unique space within the journey narrative, telling the story of the Middle Passage, but as always, the trick of multiculturalism is inclusion without conflation or degradation.

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