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African Francophone Bandes Dessinées: Graphic Autobiographies and Illustrated Testimonies

  • Author(s): Bumatay, Michelle
  • Advisor(s): Thomas, Dominic
  • et al.
Abstract

Former French President Charles de Gaulle's famous claim that Belgian bande dessinée character Tintin was his only international rival speaks to the ubiquity of bandes dessinées in the francophone world while underlining their participation in imperial cultural hegemony. Similarly, in Peau noire, Masques blancs, Frantz Fanon also highlights the popularity of European bandes dessinées in the francophone world and observes the negative psychological impact of such texts on non-European readers who identify with Western explorer characters rather than with the racialized stereotypical images of non-European characters. One major factor for this is that the emergence and development of French and Belgian bandes dessinées took place during the height of European colonialism; bandes dessinées subsequently drew from and participated in a visual culture--such as travel postcards, brochures and keepsakes from colonial expositions, and in particular advertisements for exotic goods such as Banania--that helped construct the European imaginary of Africa. Moreover, bandes dessinées published in France and Belgium were exported to the colonial territories with the mission civilisatrice. This dissertation analyzes how contemporary cartoonists seek to disrupt the continued prevalence of colonial iconography in mainstream European bandes dessinées through satire and through experimentation with the limits of this medium. The goal is to demonstrate how such texts combat Western stereotypes of Africa and how they reconfigure European imperialist discourses to generate new modes of thinking about and representing sub-Saharan Africa.

Though many sub-Saharan African bandes dessinées are didactic in nature and subject to censorship, there are two genres to which contemporary African cartoonists seem to gravitate: autobiographical bandes dessinées that focus on quotidian life and lived-experiences and journalistic bandes dessinées that foreground postcolonial violence. Chapters one and two center on the first genre in the work of Gabonese cartoonist Pahé and in the Aya de Yopougon series by Ivorian Marguerite Abouet and French Clément Oubrerie. Chapter three shifts focus to an investigation of the long-lasting sociopolitical effects of European colonialism in central Africa in the work of Belgian cartoonist Jean-Philippe Stassen with particular attention paid to his work on the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and its continuing aftermath.

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