Celebrating West Africa

As part of a monthlong tribute to West African history and culture, the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center and the Tarpon Springs Library team up for free public screenings of three West African films (with English subtitles) and several related events.

The films and screening times are as follows: Guimba the Tyrant at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Library; Taafe Fanga (Skirt Power) at 2 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Cultural Center; and Keita, the Heritage of the Griot at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Library.

Guimba is a visually sumptuous film and a biting allegory of present-day African politics. Guimba, the prince of a once prosperous trading city, tyrannizes those under his authority through arbitrary terror and the misuse of occult powers (a recurrent theme in West African literature). Eventually, the entire community turns against him, and he descends into madness. It's a fable, really, in which director Cheick Oumar Sissoko foretells a similar fate for the dictators who continue to pillage the continent.

Taafe Fanga is a gender-bending domestic comedy that makes some serious points about the status of women in Africa today. A griot (traditional African storyteller) in present-day Mali tells a story about women in an 18th century Dogon village who are fed up with male arrogance. They capture a powerful mask and terrorize the men into assuming traditional women's roles, with humorous results. Director Adama Drabo was inspired, in part, by the role women played in Mali's 1991 revolution.

Keita introduces audiences with one of the most important works of African oral literature, The Sundjata Epic. A djeliba, a master griot, arrives mysteriously at the home of a boy, Mabo Keita, to reveal the meaning of his name through the story of a distant ancestor, Sundjata Keita, the 13th century founder of the great Malian trading empire. There is inevitable conflict then with the boy's Westernized mother and schoolteacher, who have rejected African tradition.

Related events include a multimedia art exhibit by Sangoyemi Ogunsanya and Joseph Weinzettle titled ASHE': West African Spirituality and Slave Resistance (through Sept. 29, at the Cultural Center); a dance workshop and a performance by Dundu Dole, an urban African ballet company (Sept. 21, at Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center); a lecture by Dr. Ibrahima Seck of Senegal on the African folktale character Touki Bouki (Sept. 28, at the Cultural Center); and a panel discussion titled Traditional West Africa: Survival and Renewal in Florida (Sept. 29, at the Cultural Center.

All events are free except for the performance by Dundu Dole (admission costs $10). Tarpon Springs Cultural Center is located at 101 S. Pinellas Ave., Tarpon Springs. Tarpon Springs Library is located at 138 E. Lemon St. Call 727-942-5605.

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