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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2009, Issue 174


Disability in African films: A semiotic analysis

Patrick Devlieger / Jori De Coster
Published Online: 2009-04-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2009.030


In Xala (1975) of Sembene Ousmane, Wend Kuuni (1982) of Gaston Kaboré, Gombele (1994) of Falaba Issa Traore, Keita (1995) of Dan Koyate, La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil (1998) of Djibril Diop Mambeti, and Khorma (la bêtise) (2002) of Saadi Jilaani., we analyze the multiple meanings of “sexual impotence,” “albinism,” “blindness,” “deafness,” and “mobility disabilities.” We analyze how context, stigmatization, and impact on the story invite a reflection. Disability is understood as loss but also the possibility for regeneration (in Xala), as genuinely “accepting gifts from God” (in Wend Kuuni), the ordinariness of disabled people and others' misguided perception of them (in Gombele), “learning your name” and overcoming barriers (in Keita), enlightening a rather dark world (in La Petite Vendeuse), and a positive despite people's negative disruptive tendencies (in Khorma). We argue the potential of disability in explicating tensions between traditional and modern, accumulation and loss of power, human and God, special and ordinary. Disability is a particular site of criticism that confronts isolation, miscommunication, lack of memory, and religious division. The disabled figures in these films emphasize positive intentions, tolerance, insistence, ordinariness and goodness, and the possibility of reversal and transgression.

Keywords:: Disability; African film; Xala; Wend Kuuni; Gombele; La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil; Khorma; Keita

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Published Online: 2009-04-02

Published in Print: 2009-04-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2009, Issue 174, Pages 145–164, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2009.030.

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