|The screenplay for Sankofa was written
by the Ethiopian independent filmmaker Haile Gerima. Gerima has
produced several movies including Bush Mamma and Harvest 3000
Years. The film Sankofa is a look at the Maafa, the
African Holocaust from an African/African American view. This
perspective provides a different spin on the Maafa than that traditionally
shown by filmmakers with Eurocentric world views. Gerima says his
purpose "...is to help Africans and African Americans
understand why and how they came to be who they are" (Ritchards).
He does this by starting the film in the real present day remains of a
slave castle, the Cape Coast Castle, in Ghana and then moves to a
nineteenth century Louisiana sugar plantation.
|When Gerima first arrived in the United States in 1967 at the age of 21, he was shocked to see so many other blacks. His Ethiopian schooling had never mentioned the Atlantic slave trade. He says "'I only learned of American slavery when I got here to this country...I couldn't believe we had been denied the knowledge of the slave trade in Africa. Even in the U.S., it was very, very covered up, and you have to dig to go underneath to find what has taken place. Everybody has collaborated to cover up an African holocaust.'" (Fahizah). Thus this topic is very important to him because of the way the truth about slavery has been hidden from the public for so long.|
The title of the film, Sankofa is an Adinkra word, from the Akan people of Africa. Gerima says that the English translation of this word would be " 'returning to your roots, recapturing what you've lost and moving forward'" (Ritchards). The word is represented by a bird that is looking behind it. This represents the fact that although the bird is constantly moving forward, it continually looks behind it - to its past. In addition to Sankofa, Shango also has a role in traditional African culture. Also, Shola represents a follower of Oshun, a deity of the Yoruba people.
sculptures of the Sankofa bird
copyright (c) 2001 by Mary R. Costantino Undergraduate at The College of New Jersey