Moolaadé, directed by the Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene and released in 2004,tells the story of a group of young African Muslim girls who have refused to undergo a “purification” ceremony in an African village. The girls seek protection (“moolaadé”) from a woman, Colle (played by actress Fatoumata Coulibaly), who finds the practice abhorrent and is sympathetic to the girls’ pleas. What ensues is a story of impending social change—the intertwining of the media, cultural influence, and a woman’s steadfast resolve to stand up for her convictions and combat a debilitating and sometimes fatal social convention: female genital mutilation.
The film uses terms like “cut,” “purification” and “social convention” to refer to the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Sembene rarely refers to the procedure as FGM within the subtitles of the film (if I remember correctly, it is only referred to as FGM towards the end of the film once). He instead refers to women who have undergone the procedure as those who have been “cut,” the procedure itself being referred to as “purification.”
The term “FGM” is considered controversial due to the negative connotation associated with “mutilation,” in addition to the practice and ideology behind the term’s denotation. What is female genital mutilation? And what terms does MMW use to refer to it? Female genital cutting? Excision? Circumcision? Each word lends a unique connotation to the practice. After discussing the term with my fellow MMW contributors, henceforth in the article, I will use the term “female genital mutilation,” as described by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be:
all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The WHO outlines four types of FGM: clitoridectomy, excision, infibulation, and other (“all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes”) that occur primarily in western and northeastern Africa, but also in parts of West Asia.
As I read more about the film itself, I was surprised to learn that all of the women who acted in the film had experienced FGM themselves. In an interview with Cinema Scope, “Woman is the Future of Man,” Sembene remarks on the courage of these actors: [Read more...]