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Cinema and the Making of a Racist, Colonial/Imperial State: Tarzan of the Apes and the Making of Africa's Image

Gbenga Frederick Olorunsiwa


The central objective of this essay is to provide new insights and understanding into how the representation of Africa and Africans in Tarzan of the Apes, a 1918 American silent film directed by Scott Sidney, has mixed legacy of reinforcing racism, colonialism/imperialism modes of thinking, and challenging it at the same time. In order words, my central argument is that the portrayal of Africa and Africans in Tarzan of the Apes is inextricably linked with institutional racism, colonial\imperial modes of thinking. Exploring the interconnection between them and Tarzan of the Apes is the central objective of this essay. Grounding my analysis in history, this essay demonstrates how racism, imperialism/colonialism, were and continue to be fundamental part of Western cinematic practices in African. I argue that racism, imperialism/colonialism have been and continue to be essential components of Western cinematic practices in Africa.


Race; Film; Culture; Tarzan; America

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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