“He had nothing to say.” That’s how French philosopher Roland Barthes described his grandfather Louis-Gustave Binger, the archetypal French colonialist: “Il ne tenait aucun discours.” And yet. Explorer of the Niger Loop, Louis-Gustave Binger was the author of Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée (1891). He was the founder of the Côte d’Ivoire colony and was appointed its governor in 1893. He was “officially” considered the “father” of the nation. He founded and set up the first capital, gave his name to the second. He features on the country’s stamps:

Binger also wrote Le Serment de l’Explorateur, a novel in which an explorer heads off “to Africa” leaving his wife and daughter behind. The photographs taken during Binger’s explorations are the first photographs ever taken in Côte d’Ivoire.

But, “It is as if neither honours nor books ever existed for Roland Barthes.”

A few years ago, Vincent Meessen has made a short film, “Vita Nova,” about Roland Barthes’ peculiar silence about his grandfather’s colonial life, which you can now watch online:

Read an interview with Vincent Meessen about “Vita Nova” here. Meessen is currently working on a new film, La Poule d’Ombredane, which takes its cue from the Congo-based experiments by French psychologist André Ombredane (1898–1958).

Further Reading

Laundering Isabel dos Santos

“African corruption” is only African as regards its victims. Its perpetrators are institutions and individuals from across the globe who are willing to loot without conscience as they watch their offshore accounts grow.

Fela enshrined

Fela Kuti’s friend, Carlos Moore, the black Cuban emigre writer, is the subject of a film about their at times difficult relationship. The result is complex.

On Safari

We are not just marking the end of 2019, but also the end of a momentous, if frustrating decade for building a more humane, caring future for Africans.

Time travelin’

The Chimurenga arts collective explores the relevance of FESTAC, a near forgotten, epic black arts festival held in Nigeria in the mid-1970s, for our age.