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Sarah Maldoror’s “Tricontinental Cinema” at Wexner Center for the Arts


Sarah Maldoror. Image courtesy of Annouchka de Andrade and Henda Ducados. Photo: Bildjanst H. Nicolaisen.

Wexner Center for the Arts
1871 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio, United States 43210

Feb 03 – Apr 28, 2024


See the first large-scale museum exhibition dedicated to filmmaker Sarah Maldoror, a pioneer of African cinema and fighter for Black women’s empowerment. Tricontinental Cinema explores Maldoror’s five-decade career as a filmmaker, tracing her involvement with Black liberation movements in France, Africa, and the Caribbean. Through an immersive, multisensory landscape of films, photographs, poetry, and letters, the exhibition invites you to experience the full scope of Maldoror’s practice. 

Recognized as “the mother of African cinema,” Maldoror completed more than 45 shorts, documentaries, and feature films for both the screen and television before her death in 2020. Many of these works, including her searing anti-colonial drama Sambizanga (1972)—one of the first features made in Africa by a Black woman filmmaker—rewrite the rules of films focusing on resistance and rebellion, often casting women as protagonists in movements dominated by men. Other films chart Maldoror’s creative connections with key artists and intellectuals in the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, including Surrealist artist Wifredo Lam and Négritude poet Aimé Césaire, as well as jazz musicians like the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Tricontinental Cinema extends this circle of conversations and collaborations to the present. The exhibition includes several large-scale works by contemporary artists, including a monumental fiber sculpture by renowned French and Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga and an installation by American sculptor Melvin Edwards. It also features a newly commissioned mural, painted on-site, from Paris-based artist Maya Mihindou. Framing Maldoror’s films and archives, these works form a constellation of Black and Afro-Surrealist practices while amplifying the continued resonance of her work today.

Sarah Maldoror: Tricontinental Cinema is organized by Palais de Tokyo, Paris and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio. The exhibition is curated by François Piron and Cédric Fauq, and originally presented at Palais de Tokyo from November 25, 2021-March 13, 2022. The Wexner Center presentation is organized by Daniel Marcus, Associate Curator of Exhibitions, with Kelly Kivland, Head of Exhibitions.

About Sarah Maldoror

Sarah Maldoror was born Sarah Ducados in 1929 in the town of Condom in Gers, France. The child of a Guadeloupean father and French mother, Maldoror matriculated into the intellectual and artistic ferment of 1950s Paris, where she cofounded the first Black theater troupe in France. Rechristening herself in homage to Isidor Ducasse’s proto-Surrealist book Les Chants de Maldoror (1868–69), she earned a scholarship to study filmmaking in Moscow, where she counted future Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène among her classmates at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). After decamping from Moscow to Morocco, her stint as assistant director of Gillo Pontecorvo’s insurrectionary classic The Battle of Algiers (1966) set the course for Maldoror’s first film, Monangambeee (1969)—an exploration of colonial violence during the Angolan national liberation movement—followed by Sambizanga (1972, also screened at the Wex in 2022). In the decades thereafter, Maldoror directed more than 45 films, many of which feature leading voices of Négritude and Pan-Africanism.

This exhibition is made possible by Galéria Nueveochenta and Etant donnés Contemporary Art, a program of Villa Albertine.

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Wexner Center for the Arts

The Wexner Center for the Arts is the Ohio State University‘s “multidisciplinary, international laboratory for the exploration and advancement of contemporary art.”

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Palais de Tokyo

Europe’s largest contemporary art centre, the Palais de Tokyo is home to an exceptional, multisensorial and boundary-defying experience of artistic creation that is infused with the questions that shape our contemporary world. The Palais de Tokyo serves as an engaged and accessible space of reflection, where dreams and imagination develop into curiosity and awareness, where contemplation and escapism stimulate creativity and knowledge, and where artistic inclusivity fuels a process of individual and collective transformation.

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