Sarah Maldoror. (Photo:
Sarah Maldoror. (Photo:

The world is mourning the loss of Sarah Maldoror, pioneer of Pan-African Cinema and a lifelong activist, who died Monday due to complications related to COVID-19.

Radio France Internationale (RFI) reports:

“Born Sarah Ducados, to a Guadeloupian father and a mother from the southwest of France (Gers), she chose her artist’s name as homage to The Songs of Maldoror, the work of the surrealist poet Lautréamont.

Starting out in theatre, she founded Compagnie d’Art Dramatique des Griots in Paris in 1956, the first troupe composed of African and African-Caribbean actors, “to bring attention to black artists and writers.”

Maldoror spent time with the pioneers of the African liberation movements, in Guinea, Algeria and Guinea Bissau, alongside her companion, Mario Pinto de Andrade, a poet and politician from Angola, who founded the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and became the liberated country’s first president in 1960.

Maldoror’s bio on African Film Festival (AFF) states:

“She left the company (Compagnie d’Art Dramatique des Griots ) in the early 1960s to study cinema in the Soviet Union at VGIK in Moscow on a scholarship—there she met Ousmane Sembène who was also studying at the time. Maldoror worked both as an assistant director and a director in Paris, Martinique, and Portuguese-speaking African countries. After residing briefly in Morocco in 1963, she went to Algeria to work as Gillo Pontecorvo’s assistant on the 1966 classic film, The Battle of Algiers, the prototype for all mainstream political cinema of the 1970s.”

Maldoror Is best known for the award-winning feature film Sambizanga (1972) about the Angola liberation struggle (1961-1974), which was told from a woman’s perspective.


Co-written by her husband, Sambizanga is a fictionalized chronicle of the arrest and fatal imprisonment of a man whose underground activities were an impenetrable secret to all around him. It was at a prison near the Luandan suburb of Sambizanga on February 4, 1961, where the first uprising of what was to become the Angolan resistance movement was staged. The film is set a few weeks before that uprising, during a time of increasingly desperate and repressive security measures by the colonial government.

France’s former culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand awarded Maldoror with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite for services to culture in 2012. “She had contributed to fill the deficit of images of African women in front of and behind the camera,” he said, thus changing cinema and history.

Watch an interview with Maldoror in French on Vimeo:

An activist to the end, Maldoror often stated, “For many African filmmakers, cinema is a revolutionary tool, a political education to raise consciousness.”

Maldoror was 91. Rest in power.

This post was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter @TheBurtonWire.

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