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See the first large-scale museum exhibition dedicated to filmmaker Sarah Maldoror, a pioneer of African cinema and fighter for Black women’s empowerment.
Tricontinental Cinema explores Maldoror’s five-decade career as a filmmaker, tracing her involvement with Black liberation movements in France, Africa, and the Caribbean. Through an immersive, multisensory landscape of films, photographs, poetry, and letters, the exhibition invites you to experience the full scope of Maldoror’s practice. Recognized as "the mother of African cinema," Maldoror completed more than 45 shorts, documentaries, and feature films for both the screen and television before her death in 2020. Many of these works, including her searing anti-colonial drama Sambizanga (1972)—one of the first features made in Africa by a Black woman filmmaker—rewrite the rules of films focusing on resistance and rebellion, often casting women as protagonists in movements dominated by men. Other films chart Maldoror’s creative connections with key artists and intellectuals in the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, including Surrealist artist Wifredo Lam and Négritude poet Aimé Césaire, as well as jazz musicians like the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Tricontinental Cinema extends this circle of conversations and collaborations to the present. The exhibition includes several large-scale works by contemporary artists, including a monumental fiber sculpture by renowned French and Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga and an installation by American sculptor Melvin Edwards. It also features a newly commissioned mural, painted on-site, from Paris-based artist Maya Mihindou. Framing Maldoror’s films and archives, these works form a constellation of Black and Afro-Surrealist practices while amplifying the continued resonance of her work today.
Join us for the free opening celebration on Friday, February 2, featuring a talk, open galleries, a reception, and a dance party. Explore more programs and events related to the exhibition. Artist list:Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc
Melvin EdwardsSoñ Gweha
Ana Mercedes HoyosKapwani KiwangaWifredo Lam
Chris MarkerMaya Mihindou
Chloé QuenumMaud Sulter
Sarah Maldoror: Tricontinental Cinema. Installation view at Palais de Tokyo, 2022. Courtesy of Palais de Tokyo. Photo: Aurélien Mole.
Sarah Maldoror was born Sarah Ducados in 1929 in the town of Condom in Gers, France. The child of a Guadeloupean father and French mother, Maldoror matriculated into the intellectual and artistic ferment of 1950s Paris, where she cofounded the first Black theater troupe in France. Rechristening herself in homage to Isidor Ducasse’s proto-Surrealist book Les Chants de Maldoror (1868–69), she earned a scholarship to study filmmaking in Moscow, where she counted future Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène among her classmates at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). After decamping from Moscow to Morocco, her stint as assistant director of Gillo Pontecorvo’s insurrectionary classic The Battle of Algiers (1966) set the course for Maldoror’s first film, Monangambeee (1969), followed by Sambizanga (1972, also screened at the Wex in 2022). In the decades thereafter, Maldoror directed more than 45 films for screen and television, many of which feature leading voices of Négritude and Pan-Africanism.
Sarah Maldoror: Tricontinental Cinema is organized by Palais de Tokyo, Paris, and the Wexner Center for the Arts. The exhibition is curated by Palais de Tokyo Curator François Piron and CAPC Musée d'art Contemporain de Bordeaux Chief Curator Cédric Fauq. The Wexner Center presentation of the exhibition is coordinated by Associate Curator of Exhibitions Daniel Marcus with Head of Exhibitions Kelly Kivland.
The exhibition has benefited from the generous assistance and support of Annouchka de Andrade and Friends of Sarah Maldoror and Mário de Andrade.
THIS PRESENTATION MADE POSSIBLE BY Etant donnés Contemporary Art, a program of Villa Albertine
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT PROVIDED BY Galería Nueveochenta
EXHIBITIONS 2023–24 SEASON MADE POSSIBLE BY Bill and Sheila Lambert Carol and David Aronowitz Crane Family Foundation Mike and Paige Crane
FREE GALLERIES MADE POSSIBLE BY American Electric Power Foundation Mary and C. Robert Kidder Bill and Sheila Lambert
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR FREE GALLERIES PROVIDED BY Adam Flatto CoverMyMeds PNC Foundation
WEXNER CENTER PROGRAMS MADE POSSIBLE BY Ohio Department of Development
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Wexner Family
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Ohio Arts Council
, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts CampusParc
Ohio State’s Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme
The Columbus Foundation
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT PROVIDED BY Mike and Paige Crane Axium Packaging Nancy Kramer Ohio State Energy Partners Ohio History Fund/Ohio History Connection Larry and Donna James Bruce and Joy Soll Rebecca Perry Damsen and Ben Towle Jones Day Alex and Renée Shumate
Presented by The Ohio State University Office of Academic Affairs and the Wexner Center for the Arts
Film History 101
Sarah Maldoror: Tricontinental Cinema