Carmen in Africa: French Legacies and Global Citizenship’

Modified on Fri, 30 Sep 2022 at 03:08 PM

André, Naomi. 2016. ‘Carmen in Africa: French Legacies and Global Citizenship’. The Opera Quarterly 32(1), 54-76.

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Nowhere is it more evident that Carmen has become a product of a global cultural imagination than in two early millennial African adaptations of the French nineteenth-century story about the so-called gypsy Carmen by Prosper Mérimée and Georges Bizet.1 Much further south than the original setting in Seville, Spain, the African Carmens have made a critical migration. No longer just looming close to Africa in the Moorish culture of southern Spain, both of these Carmens now inhabit the sub-Saharan heat of the continent with settings in Senegal and South Africa. The two films, the Senegalese Karmen Geï (2001), directed by Joseph Gaï Ramaka, and the South African U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (2005), directed by Mark Dornford-May, are both the first feature-length films by each director and, amidst the vast array of Carmen adaptations, the only ones to put the Carmen story on the African continent.2 In these two versions, the story of Carmen is given a new articulation. More directly, both films of the opera reimagine Carmen and reinvent her in each sub-Saharan African country. Carmen has become a global citizen: an amalgamation of her French roots is reconfigured in Dakar, Senegal, and Khayelitsha, South Africa.

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