Tekletsadik Belachew. Stories from the Fireplace: Theological Meditations on Haile Gerima’s Cinema. Bamenda, Cameroon: Langaa Research & Publishing Com mon Initiative Group, 2022. 384 pp. Recommendations. Appendices. Bibliographies. Index. $48.00. Paper. ISBN: 978-9956-552-75-7.
Scholars of Africa cinema may already be familiar with Teklatsadik Bela chew’s earlier work on Ethiopia’s most internationally famous filmmaker, Haile Gerima, whose films about his motherland include Harvest: 3000 Years (Mirt Sost Shi Amit, 1976), Imperfect Journey (1994), Adwa: An African Victory (1999), and Teza (2008). His feature-length films on the African-American experience include Bush Mama (1976), Wilmington 10—USA 10,000 (1978), Ashes and Embers (1982), and Sankofa (1993). In Stories from the Fireplace: Theological Meditations on Haile Gerima’s Cinema, Tekletsadik Belachew takes his research in a new direction by using Gerima’s films as inspiration for his own theological meditations.
In this book, Belachew enters into the discourse of African Christian theology for which he utilizes Haile Gerima’s films as critical tools to inter rogate the racist biases and colonialist worldviews of Eurocentric Christian theology. Toward this self-consciously “imperfect journey” inspired by the cinematic tactics of Third Cinema, he takes several turns. He first provides a biography of Haile Gerima that situates Gerima both in his local Gondari cultural context and within the global context of other African filmmakers, especially Gerima’s compatriots Ousmane Sembene (from Senegal) and Med Hondo (from Mauritania). He also reveals the influence of Haile Gerima’s father, Abba Gerima Taffere, and usefully provides lengthy trans lations of the father’s writings about history and religion. He brilliantly takes us through Ethiopian Orthodox Christian theology’s conceptualization of the visual icon to then theorize a new way of appreciating cinema in a theological context. He focuses on some of these iconic images from Ger ima’s films, such as the west African icon of the Sankofa bird looking back over its shoulder, as inspirations for an anti-colonialist Christian theology. He places this theology in dialogue with major African philosophers such as Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, and Achille Mbembe, and challenges the assumption of African culture as primarily “oral.” Ultimately, Belachew
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