Culture Shock and Indviduality?

by tibez1 on November 19, 2013 - 1:25am

Tracy Ibezim

Black Girl Film Review

In Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene, 1996), Sembene presents a young Senegalese woman whose name is Diouana. Similar to any individual who is offered a paying position, Diouana showed excitement due to the fact that she was hired as a governess to a French Family. Unfortunately, what she expected from this family was nonetheless the complete opposite. Being that Diouana came from the country of Senegal in Africa to France, this acted as a major factor in her life. Like a culture shock, trying to adapt to a culture she is far from familiar with. As Diouana is struggling with culture shock and finding a sense of individuality. Many different types of symbols and metaphors arise throughout the film allowing there to be a strong meaning behind the tone of the film and Sembene’s purpose in creating such a film.

The mask and the music were the two strongest symbols throughout the film. The mask involved both the Madame and Diouana. Referring to Madame, the mask symbolized how she was once known as a powerful mistress in Africa but eventually lost the status. For Diouana, the mask symbolized the fact that she was appreciative of the FAMILY HIRING HER FOR THE POSTION of being a nanny but later fooling her into a type of slavery. Along with this appreciativety, mask also represents respect and pay for the labor that is being done in the household for the French family. When the mask is hanging on the wall, it also symbolizes authenticism. So when the mask is removed the meaning diminishes. There would be times in the film where African music would be played, this aspect symbolized her culture and reminded her of home and the family she had back in Africa. Another important symbol in the film was the fact that she constantly wanted to wear her dress and her heels. Typically, Madame would make her remove the dress and where the house maid attire but she would insists on wearing the heels which symbolized her willingness to be elegant and to be seen by the family as high standard.

In the beginning of the film, Diouana freshly arrived to France. Immediately, it was evident she was suffering from some sort of culture shock. For example, Diouana immediately had a set comparison of France with her country back home. Of course this comparison allowed France to be the land of wealth and opportunity for the simple fact that there was assumed to be many promising care giver positions in the area. Sadly, Diouana was deceived and taken advantage of by the family she was with. Instead of being a care giver; nanny, she was treated and portrayed more like a slave in the household. Throughout all the events that Dioouana went through during her time with the family in France, she ultimately decide to take her life. Maybe as a way to show anger to those who tormented Diouana. The amount of stress that was placed upon her later caused unhappiness and in order for her to take control of her emotions, she felt it was necessary to end her life and allow others to see the negativity in which the family was doing.

Sembene does an amazing job with portraying the different elements that were referred to in the beginning of the post, for example, individuality and culture shock. I appreciate how he precisely characterized every character in the film to have their own special role into each symbol present in the film allowing the film to portray to the audience the amount of power the directed wanted to reveal.



Sembene, O. (Director). (1966). La noire de [Motion Picture]. Distributed by

New Yorker Video, France / Senegal



The article talks about how Diouana experienced culture shock from traveling to France from her home in Africa. I can relate to this extreme change in culture. My entire family and I traveled from home to Italy for two weeks, and it was extremely difficult adjusting to the different cultural standards. It felt like as soon as we got used to the culture shock within the two weeks we were on the plane home again to another change in culture. I didn’t actually attend this movie, but you did a wonderful job on explaining the symbols of the film and the culture shock that Diouana dealt with. I like how you explained the meaning of Diouana wanting to wear the dress and the high heels. It was unfortunate to read that Diouana had taken her life, from what I read in the article it was due to the fact of how she was treated more of a slave than a nanny and the stress that the family put on her. It seemed to me that Diouana committed suicide to expose the family’s negative actions towards Diouana. It is upsetting that Diouana had to turn to that option, but I think the culture shock, and the way Diouana was treated had a significant effect on her choices. I know from past experience that entering a completely different culture can create social boundaries and difficulties, and it creates a struggle of identity and being socially accepted. I can relate to Diouana’s culture shock and her struggle with the sense of individuality and acceptance into a new culture. I think you did a very nice job with the article I liked it.

I agree with a lot of your thoughts on his film. I noticed a lot the symbolism having to do with the traditional African mask and music; you did a really nice job of summarizing that symbolism and its effects on the meaning the author is trying to portray. The mask is a particularly poignant motif in the film because it can symbolize deception and falsehood, as you suggested. I agree that the mask is used, in part, to depict the way that Diounna was deceived; when she really thought she was going to serve as a governess and act as a maid and nanny for the family, she ended up as almost a slave. This also speaks to the way social arrangements vary from place to place as well as in various social settings. The Madame's social power was different in France than it was in Africa, just as was the case for Diounna. This phenomenon seems to be true for the majority of people who find themselves in changing social and cultural situations.

This film sounds very interesting. After reading your post i wish i would have seen it. Through your detailed interpretation of the symbolic interactions , i feel sympathetic towards Diounna without even watching it. I can't imagine coming from such a different culture to a completely new one and having to start all over. Especially having high hopes of the possibilities this new opportunity would bring, only to be belittled and treated as she was. A key point you mentioned about Diounna wanting to wear a dress and heals and not being allowed to wear the dress really hit home to me. Just being a hopeful, ready to embrace opportunities young woman my self, i cant imagine how she must have felt to be so let down and outcasted. I wonder if she committed suicide because she couldn't deal with the pain or in order to prove a point. Regardless, your review was interesting and very informative. I am being completely sincere when i say I'm going to look into viewing this film.

Though I can’t say I enjoyed this film, I found the points made in this film review useful. I didn’t take the time to really think about all of the symbols portrayed by the mask. I had just assumed it was used to represent the relationship between Madame and Diouana. It is interesting to think of all the different symbols that were discussed in the review. I realized I did not pay enough attention to the content of such simple symbols such as a mask. I had made the same connection with the dress and heels to Diouana’s wish to participate in a simple form of luxury to appear more significant and elegant to the family. The culture shock expressed throughout the movie, especially in the beginning, is understandable. In my own family, my Nonna and Nonno immigrated to America from Italy and also faced a similar form of culture shock. Like Diouana, finding a job in the new culture was a huge struggle and individuals would feel exceedingly blessed to find any type of job. Based on my own family I can infer that it was especially difficult for women of different cultures to find jobs in their new home. I can only imagine the fear and frustration of moving to a completely different culture. Diouana’s choice to kill herself seemed extremely foolish in my own opinion. No matter how much of a slave she felt like, she could have left and tried to get a different job. Killing herself was definitely not the only option for her and I did not feel sorry for her by this point. This of course is merely of my opinion of the movie script and has less to do with the actual content. This was a great movie review and I am glad to have had the opportunity to see some of the symbolism that I did not pick up on.

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