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Dr. Susan Sage Heinzelman, Director 2505 University Avenue, A4900, Burdine Hall 536, Austin Texas 78712 • 512-471-5765

Hélène Tissières

Associate Faculty Ph.D., New York University

Associate Professor
Hélène Tissières

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Biography

Research

Hélène Tissières has been interested in breaking down barriers between North and sub-Saharan Africa and between the arts. In her book Ecritures en transhumance entre Maghreb et Afrique subsaharienne (2007), she investigates several circulations: geographic – between North and sub-Saharan Africa; cultural – between orality and writing; and aesthetic – between literature and painting. This led her also to analyze the silences that arise from fragmented writing. The authors refer to history and to the political situation. At times they propose an inner quest through initiation, ritual or mystical concepts in order to bypass daily problems, thus enriching their narratives with complex cultural perspectives. In the chapter drawing links between writing and painting, she shows that the writers Khatibi, Meddeb and Farès refer to signs or painting in order to transmit information that goes beyond language. This approach emphasizes that the arts are closely linked throughout the continent and that signs migrate from one object or medium to another. The second part of the book documents these circulations in the works of four writers: the Tunisian Abdelwahab Meddeb, whose texts refer to contemporary painting, tracing a parallel between abstraction and Sufism; the Cameroonian Werewere Liking and the Congolese Tchicaya U Tam’Si, both of whom incorporate elements from the oral tradition and are inspired by ritual or divination systems; and the Algerian Assia Djebar who turns to visual images, moving away from relying solely on the use of language. 

Thanks to a Fulbright she received, she taught at the University of Cheick Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, from 2003-05 and has ever since been writing on the Dakar biennale.  Her second book intitled Créations et défis au Sénégal, Diop, Sembene, Diadji (2012) is about the works of three Senegalese figures: Boubacar Boris Diop, novelist, Ousmane Sembene, writer and filmmaker, and Iba Ndiaye Diadji, art critic. It examines how they position themselves to question social norms, political or religious absolutes, international prerogatives. In Senegal, where the practice of Maslaa regulates people’s exchanges and promotes tolerance and politeness, this study shows how these writers confront taboos (role of women, corruption, social inequalities), while unsettling norms. And this brings her to discuss in the conclusion the role played by rappers in Senegal in particular Didier Awadi, presenting the different approaches created to confront the problems faced.

Interested in the way the arts are intertwined throughout Africa, she has been writing on literature, visual arts (in particular painting), film and music. Her book Ecritures en transhumance (2007) will appear in English (2011, translated by Marjolijn de Jager) at Virginia University Press.

Research Subject Headings: Language

Affiliated Research/Academic Unit

Interests

African and Caribbean Francophone literatures, African and French film, African contemporary art, African music, Biennale of Dakar.

Publications

This book represents several circulations: geographic – between North and sub-Saharan Africa; cultural – between orality and writing; and aesthetic – between literature and painting. In part II, it analyses works by the Tunisian Abdelwahab Meddeb, whose texts refer to contemporary painting, tracing a parallel between abstraction and Sufism; the Cameroonian Werewere Liking and the Congolese Tchicaya U Tam’Si, both of whom incorporate elements from the oral tradition and are inspired by ritual or divination systems; and the Algerian Assia Djebar who turns to visual images, moving away from relying solely on the use of language. 

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