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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Tonight at the Empire': cinema and urbanity in Zanzibar, 1920s to 1960s
Author:Reinwald, BrigitteISNI
Periodical:Afrique & histoire
Geographic term:Zanzibar
urban life
Abstract:This article deals with cinema in Zanzibar from its beginnings in the late 1910s and looks at evolving programme patterns and changing audience preference trends during the colonial period and the initial transition years to post-colonial rule. Cinema-going developed during the course of the 20th century to a popular urban resident pastime, all social classes and 'ethnic' groups considered. Notwithstanding preponderant market shares of influential North American or British production-cum-distribution companies, the cinematographic landscape in Zanzibar was characterized from the late 1920s by a considerable influx of films from studios in Bombay and Cairo as a result of the translocal film marketing network between Western India and the East African coast, from which Indian expatriates emerged as a driving force. The study shows first how audiences in search of pleasure interfered with or simply bypassed the colonial project of socio-spatial engineering of post-abolitionist Zanzibari society, thus making cinema a social space where members of society could express their own perception of what it meant to be a modern cosmopolitan urbanite. To the dismay of both colonial and later postcolonial State representatives, and despite censorship and the prevention of 'African' access to commercial cinema, audiences persevered with their pleasure in moving pictures. The findings presented in this article contribute to a better assessment of the variant reading of Zanzibar's urban landscape by those involved in the distribution and appropriation of cinematographic productions circulating in the Indian Ocean region and beyond its confines. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]