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Description: Culture is no longer a static body of knowledge, values, practices and expressions shared and passed on by a community.

It is a dynamic reality.The Power of Art: Womens Voices in Africa explores how contemporary African women who choose to be professional artists claim their position, and deal with the stereotypes associated with being an African and a woman. The film also focuses on the role professional artists may play in addressing the challenges women are faced with on the African continent. Biography: Claudine Pommier is a Canadian filmmaker and visual artist whose credits include Toumani Diabat, The Voice of the Kora and The Art of Women of Tiebele. She is also the founder and executive director of the Arts in Action Society. She has had exhibitions in Canada, France, Mexico, Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, the US and North Africa. Culture is no longer a static body of knowledge, values, practices and expressions shared and passed on by a community. It is a dynamic reality. The 14 annual United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF) was held this year in Palo Alto, Stanford University, East Palo Alto and San Francisco. Originally intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNAFF focused this years selection of films on the theme of EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT. As I perused the list of documentaries, noting titles and summaries as factors in determining my interests, a small picture icon beside the title The Power of Art: Womens Voices in Africa caught my attention. It was a painting of two African women, significantly different in clothing, hair style, and facial expression. I later learned while watching the film that these two women signified the tensions existing between traditional and contemporary African society. Despite my ignorance of the paintings meaning at the time, I was nonetheless intrigued the topic and made the stressful but never regretted decision to add another event to my college schedule. I can say without hesitance that it was the best possible use of my time. It is obvious that the continent of Africa possesses no one artistic identity, no single mode or medium through which self and cultural expression are created. The added complexity of focusing solely on female artists presents a particular challenge to the director to somehow make cohesive a giant body of artwork that is unwilling to follow a certain trend or concept. Claudine Pommier, director and producer of this documentary, delivers a collection of experiences that somehow include depth and at times bizarre individuality without alienating her audience- an impressive feat when one considers the many expressions of African artists facing a wide range of social and political dissatisfaction. In many African societies, women artists struggle to find a place in the arena of artistic creation, given that they receive little to no support from the greater community. They are not often considered as complete persons with the same rights as men. What a man thinks, a woman must think less. Surrealist painter Marie-Blanche Ouedraogo Burkina Faso laughs after making this statement- there is no bitterness, no obvious frustration in her delivery, but rather an almost childlike perspective of honesty that she can then translate into her paintings- in her words, I try to represent more of what I dont see than what I see. Most of the buyers of her work are foreigners who do not stay for very long, who do not assume the common perspective of her people that painting is not a profession meant for the lesser beings of women.

In contrast, Gabi Ngobo of Cape Town, South Africa, speaks of the difficulties in creating a life as an artist with apparent unhappiness. Most of the time, if you are a black women you are not just an artistyou are a black female artist and that comes with a lot of baggage.

This documentary not only wove together the individual insights and experiences of various African female artists, but did so with its own artistic flair and identity. Each new artist was introduced to the audience by having them initially frozen into a grainy, texturized painting that slowly thawed into realitya style that worked nicely with the ethereal presentation of the artists artwork.

The Power of Art: Womens Voices in Africa, a documentary by Claudine Pommier, explores the On a continent where there is no one artistic identity, no single mode or medium through which self and cultural expression are created, female African artists are anything but idle. The challenges faced by these professionals are numerous and daunting- lack of proper schooling, female oppression, socioeconomic status- yet the artists shown in this film are resiliently prolific in their art.

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