It must have been 2005, the second time I went to FESPACO — the film festival that started in the late 1960s in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso — that I saw Sembene Ousmane smoking his pipe in front of the Hotel Indépendance. I was there with Rwandan filmmaker, Eric Kabera during a period I lived in Kigali and we were making (and selecting films for) a country-wide film festival to happen ten years after the Rwandan genocide. The festival was based out of the Rwanda Cinema Centre that Eric founded, and continues until this day. Eric and I met at the Zanzibar festival in the Summer of 2003 and first discussed the idea of a festival in Rwanda. Kivu Ruhorahoza was the festival coordinator. It was amazing to see his film ‘Grey Matter’ only a few years later in 2011 at the TriBeCa Film Festival.
On a trip to Dakar, Senegal in June 2017, Coumba Toure took me to a graveside memorial on the 10th anniversary of Sembene Ousmane’s death where several of his old friends and younger protégés were gathered. Mbye Cham had traveled from Washington D.C. to be there. Several events were happening throughout Dakar to commemorate his life.