This study identifies and critically assesses African characters, and representations of dress, music, signs or symbols - which may be described as Africacentric in their aesthetic - in African American films produced between the 1970s and 2000s. Collectively termed as African elements, the thesis interrogates the ways these are presented, how they contribute to the narratives they are engaged in, and how their inclusion in the selected films reflect the contemporary politics, cultural aesthetic, and social trends of the era in which they are produced. As such, this work establishes a premise for why, in current scholarship, there should be a place for a more differentiated analysis of Black experiences in the discussed films.
Following a cumulative approach, this study looks at how and why particular
perceptions of Africa and Africans persist in films produced across three decades. It argues that these African elements are often distinguished from the foregrounded African American characters and stories, and in this capacity, operate between the concurrent desire for, connection to, and negation of Africa in the assertions of African American identities.
Tuleka Prah is currently employed as a Lead Content Specialist in Berlin. She previously worked as a freelance videographer, writer, and editor. Her interest in society, history and memory, with a focus on Black identities within these, is always reflected in her personal work.