Friday, October 24, 2014

Diouana (427)

"Diouana (427)", oil on canvas, 24x24". For sale on Etsy.
Diouana, a young woman from Senegal, gazes upward with admiration for her new surroundings as she strolls between whitewashed walls. The setting is Antibes in the Côte d'Azur (or French Riviera) in 1966. She is hopeful here, when she first arrives at her new home, but her tale ends in tragedy. This portrait is based on a still from the short film "Black Girl" (or "La Noire De..."), an early work by Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène. (One of Sembène's better-known works was his final film, Moolaadé (2004), about genital mutilation.) Diouana (pronounced joh-ah-nah) worked as a nanny for a white French family in Senegal. She is thrilled when they move back to France and ask her to work for them there. But her dreams of cosmopolitan life in the south of France are quickly crushed. She is forced to be a servant, not just a nanny, responsible for cooking and cleaning. Her employers suddenly begin to treat her harshly, screaming at her and intercepting her letters home. She never gets to go out and enjoy the place that she dreamed of seeing. In the end, her sense of entrapment and despair leads her to suicide.

As a side note, the actress who portrayed Diouana, Thérèse M’Bissine Diop, also experienced some troubles in real life, though with a happier outcome than the fictional character. Diop's family and friends ostracized her for her participation in filmmaking, which was poorly understood and frowned-upon within their traditional culture in the 1960s. Despite this unfortunate reception at home, Diop went on to have a career designing textiles in Paris. So she did live happily in France, unlike the character Diouana.

This painting connects two randomly selected topics: Côte d'Azur (a shade of blue that is color #427 in Naomi Kuno's Colorscape book), and southern Central Africa (from my DK Family Encyclopedia). I didn't find an exact match for that region of Africa, so I compromised with the connection to Senegal in West Africa.

10-23-14. Triops lava lamp.