On September 19th we honor and say thank you to Manthia Diawara for his years of dedicated service and vision for the Institute of African American Affairs.
Professor Diawara’s film, An Opera of the World (2017, 70 min, DCP), is based on the African opera Bintou Were, a Sahel Opera, which recounts an eternal migration drama. The Bintou Were opera, filmed on location in Bamako, Mali in 2007, serves as a mirror for Dr. Diawara to build an aesthetic and reflexive story, through song and dance, about the current and yet timeless drama of migration between North and South, and the ongoing refugee crises. The film ponders on the realities of cultural encounters through the concepts of métissage and hybridity. Written by Chadian poet Koulsy Lamko, it tells the story of a young mother desperately attempting to make her way to a better future for herself and her unborn. Professor Diawara masterfully interweaves stories of migration and crisis in Syria and Mali today. The success and limits of fusing African and European perspectives are tested by interlacing performances from the Bintou Were opera, past and present archival footage of migrations, classic European arias, and interviews with European and African intellectuals, artists and social activists – including Alexander Kluge, Fatou Diome, Nicole Lapierre and Richard Sennett.