‘Black Girl’ by Ousmane Sembène

Another guide for me in terms of thinking about writing history and exploring the impact of colonialism and racism through fiction came in the classic film based on the short story La Noire de (Black Girl) directed by its author. It’s the story of a domestic worker who leaves Dakar, Senegal, dreaming of a new life in France, only to arrive on the Côte d’Azur to find that her life is not at all what she’d expected. There are lines from the story that I will always remember due to the power of the main actor’s voice. One example being when she cries with excitement at the prospect of working abroad: “J’ai du travail chez les blancs!” she exclaims, only to later find that it is misery that awaits her as she is exploited by her employers.

Based on a short story first published in Voltaique, Présence Africaine, 1962. In the translated collection, Tribal Scars, Inscape, 1975, the story is translated by Ellen Conroy Kennedy as ‘The Promised Land’