Women in marriage: from word to image in Ousmane Sembene’s Xala


Published as a novel in 1973 and released as a film in 1974, Ousmane Sembene’s Xala offers his readers as well as his audience the most detailed display of one of his prominent themes: the role of women in marriage. This article examines how Sembene skilfully uses both literature and film to express the same theme and, in so doing, exploits each medium’s strong points to complement each other in order to reinforce the message he wishes to convey. Sembene, the modern griot, knows that life is complex, and, in his written work, he includes exceptions and nuances, which he is unable to highlight in his film due to time constraints. In so doing, his novel reflects a more detailed depiction of reality. By contrast, in his cinematic version, he focuses on certain aspects of the novel and amplifies them with the aid of cinematic techniques. As a result, he transcends the abstract and superficial distinctions made between the traditional woman and the westernised woman to create a more nuanced and striking message where not all women are described as being victims of polygamy and some of them go as far as opposing it. He shows the audience the negative as well as the positive aspects of polygamy, thus attaining his aim, which is to educate his people.


Author Biography

Maria Vrancken, Nelson Mandela University

Maria Vrancken est conférencière et coordonnatrice de la section de français du département de langue et de littérature de l’Université Nelson Mandela à Port Elizabeth en Afrique du Sud.


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How to Cite
VranckenM. (2020). Women in marriage: from word to image in Ousmane Sembene’s Xala. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 57(2), 92-100. https://doi.org/10.17159/tl.v57i2.7967
Research articles