Five African Films that Highlight Mothers (and Mother Figures).
There are not one but two women in this film that are wonderful mother figures. The first, and most prominent in the film, is Whoopi Goldberg’s character. An inspiring woman from the moment we meet her, Mary Masombuka is not only a teacher, but a woman who’s vision of black liberation in apartheid South Africa propels her to defy racist and brutal authorities. Where Masombuka lacks the vigor of youth, Sarafina fills in and fulfills the dreams that cannot be contained to the four walls of their classroom. But let’s not forget Sarafina’s real mother played by the unforgettable Miriam Makeba. Although in this part of the film we see Sarafina almost mocking her mother’s complacency as a domestic worker, we know that Sarafina sees beyond their circumstances to understand the sacrificial nature of this relationship.
Dedicated wife, mother and friend, Yesterday (played by Leleti Khumalo) is a hard-working young woman living in the Zululand village of Rooihook whose life takes a sudden turn for the worst when she discovers that she’s infected with HIV/AIDS. As she confronts her husband, a migrant labourer working in the mines, his violent reaction and rejection of her and her young daughter, Beauty, shocks Yesterday but also makes her more dedicated to ensure that Beauty receives an education and is taken care of when Yesterday is no longer around.
A single mother who divorced her abusive husband, Mati (Rokhaya Niang) toils daily by selling various goods at a nearby market, which she transports there via a large wheelbarrow — prompting local residents to dub her “Madame Brouette.”
DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST
Perhaps one of the most cinematically beautiful films ever made, this diaspora film by directer Julie Dash is full of women of various generations who are more than inspiring in their own right.
FARAW, MOTHER OF THE DUNES
Dedicated to the mother of the film director, Faraw tells the story of Zamiatou - a woman who more than fulfills her role as a dutiful wife and mother for her Sahelian family. It’s a difficult and burdensome life for her and, tired of seeing her mother suffer, Zamiatou’s daughter Hareyrata offers to work as a maid for rich French tourists, but her mother refuses. However, it’s not long before Zamiatou has to find a job of her own to support her family.