Associate Faculty — Ph.D., 2001, French, New York University
Associate Professor in the Department of French and Italian, College of Liberal Arts
African (North and sub-Saharan) literature written in French, Caribbean literature written in French, African and French film, African contemporary art, Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art, West African music, recent French literature (immigration).
Hélène Tissières's works break down barriers between North and sub-Saharan Africa and between the arts. In her book Écritures 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. In one of the chapters, she draws links between writing and painting, showing that the writers Khatibi, Meddeb and Farès use 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 invests visual images, moving away from relying solely on the use of language.
Thanks to a Fulbright Hélène Tissières taught at the University Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal, from 2003-05 and has since been writing on the Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art. In 2011, she taught for six months at Kwara State University, Nigeria. Her second book entitled Créations et défis au Sénégal: Sembène, Diop, Diadji et Awadi (2013) is about the works of four Senegalese figures: Ousmane Sembene, writer and filmmaker, Boubacar Boris Diop, novelist, Iba Ndiaye Diadji, art critic and Didier Awadi, rapper. It examines how they position themselves to question social norms, political or religious absolutes, and 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.
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 Écritures en transhumance (2007) appeared in English (2012) at Virginia University Press (2012), translated by Marjolijn de Jager: Transmigrational Writings between the Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa: Literature, Orality, Visual Arts.
Presently Hélène Tissières is curating a major exhibition in Switzerland as homage to the Dakar Biennale. It will show the works of 30 established contemporary African artists who have participated in the Dak’Art from 2004 to 2014, such as Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Binebine, Erruas, Dime, Keita, Lô. The exhibition will run from June 10 to September 18, 2016 in Martigny, Switzerland at the Manoir and in different museums and public spaces throughout the city. Several artistic mediums will be showcased: painting, photography, video installations, and sculpture. A catalog of over 100 pages that explains the work of each artist will be published.
Affiliated Research/Academic Unit
• Centre for Middle Eastern Studies
• Comparative literature program
• Center for European Studies
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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