Film focuses on roles of African women

By Troy Doetch

DeKALB | Our idea of the African woman bartering in market stalls doesn’t usually include a ride to work in a chauffeured, black Mercedes-Benz. Maybe it should.

Mama Benz: An African Market Woman will be screened at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Center for Black Studies.

The film, which will be shown as a part of Women’s History Month, follows a female merchant in the country of Togo who is among the wealthy elders nicknamed “Mama Benz.” Sticking to Women’s Studies Program’s theme of woman’s migration and immigration, the movie details the influential role of African female entrepreneurs in transnational exchange.

“From [the 16th century] to today you have a lot of examples of women who played an important role in transnational trading and migration, and one of these examples is women today known as Mama Benz,” said Ismael Montana, assistant professor of African history. “This is just one example, so the idea is to use this to look broadly at the role that African woman played in transnational trading.”

The screening will contribute to the range of the university’s Women’s History Month which has been primarily focused on the American and Latino issues, said Rebekah Kohli, program coordinator for the Women’s Studies Program.

“Our focus for Women’s History Month has been on the U.S. and immigrants in the U.S. and immigration and migration in the U.S. context, so what I am happy about with this film is that it takes us outside the U.S. and the focus will be in Africa,” Kohli said. “I think it will expand what our coverage has been during Women’s History Month.”

The free screening is sponsored by the Center for Black Studies and the Women’s Studies Program and will be preceded by music from the African legend Fela Kuti and followed by a discussion lead by Montana.

“I think this movie will contribute to our understanding on gender and migration,” Montana said. “When we talk about migration we tend to focus on migration in terms of a male perspective. In the context of African history especially, I want to focus on woman, who play an important role.”