Manthia Diawara is a filmmaker, cultural theorist and art historian whose body of work has made an enduring contribution to the field of Black and African diasporic cultural studies. His capacious scholarly and creative practice grapples with the politics of postcolonialism, decolonisation, migration and globalisation. His essay films and documentaries amplify the voices of seminal Black theorists and artists, such as Édouard Glissant and Ousmane Sembène, and shed light upon the erosion of African livelihoods, traditions and ecosystems by global modernity. As founder and editor of the journal Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, Diawara centres Black genius in all its manifestations, resisting any singular conception of Blackness or monolithic representation of Black identity.

Among his films are AI: African Intelligence (2022), commissioned by Gluon; A Letter from Yene (2022), commissioned by Serpentine, MUBI and PCAI Polygreen Culture & Arts Initiative; An Opera of the World (2017), commissioned by documenta 14 and Prince Claus Fund for Culture; Negritude: A Dialogue between Soyinka and Senghor (2016); Edouard Glissant, One World in Relation (2010); Maison Tropicale (2008); and Who’s Afraid of Ngugi? (2007). He received a reward from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund for a documentary on Kathleen Cleaver (2012), among others.

His has published a number of articles and books, including ‘Malick Sidibe: Smell the Perfume…Or When the Youth Was Free in Bamako’ in Malick Sidibe: Mali Twist (Fondation Cartier; Paris: Xavier Barral Edition, 2017); ‘Édouard Glissant’s Worldmentality: An Introduction to One World in Relation’ (documenta 14, 2017); ‘The Films of Abderrahmane Sissako,’ Artforum (2015); African Film: New Forms of Aesthetics and Politics (Prestel, 2011); We Won’t Budge (Basic Civitas Books, 2003); and Mali Kow: Un monde fait de tous les mondes [an exposition catalogue written with Jean-Paul Colleyn, photography by Catherine De Clippel] (Indigenes Editions/Parc La Villette, 2001).

Diawara has been an editorial board member for Transition, October, African American Review and Public Culture; a member of the Scientific Committee for Revue Communications; an advisor for Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin; and a jury member for numerous awards at film festivals, such as the Festival des films engagés d’Alger, Algeria (2013), among others.

He received a Master of Arts degree from American University, Washington, DC (1978) and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Indiana University, Bloomington, USA (1985).

Born in Bamako, Mali, Diawara currently lives and works in New York.

SAF participation:
Sharjah Biennial 15 (2023)
March Meeting 2023
March Meeting 2020
March Meeting 2018

Related Content

Diawara, Manthia

March Meeting 2023

March Meeting 2023: The Postcolonial Constellation: Art, Culture, Politics after 1960