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Guelwaar, Verbal Performer

Amadou T. Fofana


The turning point in Guelwaar, a 1992 film by Director Ousmane Sembène, is the fiery speech that the main protagonist, Guelwaar, delivers at the foreign aid reception. Guelwaar takes it upon himself to chastise his countrymen over the indignity and shame in relying on foreign aid. As a result, the supposed thank you speech to the donors turns out to be a series of disparaging remarks about foreign aid. Given the tradition of hospitality, teranga, as it is called, it is very improbable that such an arguably generous act would be met with open hostility. The unlikelihood of such occurrence makes the speech unique and powerful. In addition, the speech is delivered in Wolof, the Lingua Franca, in a variant characterized by the absence of borrowings from other languages. The power of the speech is also in its delivery. Guelwaar delivers the speech with a rare eloquence, like a waaraatekat, a self-appointed public speaker who preaches on moral grounds. The setting of the stage imposes a speaker-listener dynamic between Guelwaar and the diegetic audience, and he takes much advantage of it.

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

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