Dependency, Appetite, and Iconographies of Hunger in Mambéty's Hyenas
Abstract: This essay offers a close reading of the Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty's film Hyenas and looks especially at the way the film addresses issues of development and dependency in postcolonial and contemporary Africa. Released in 1992, Hyenas is an adaptation of the Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt's 1956 play Der Besuch der alten Dame (translated into English as The Visit). The essay discusses how Mambéty's film is insistently heteroglossic, combining various lineages of thought, mythology, and aesthetics from African as well as Western sources. The film draws, for example, on folkloric stories of the hyena (which is a pan-African phenomenon) but looks as well at contemporary mass-mediated images of poverty and aid. Similarly, its cinematic strategies and aesthetics uniquely draw from European, American, and African sources. This combination of influences in the film reinforces Mambéty's message that the chronic problems of underdevelopment emerge from both external and internal sources. Although the film critiques economic neocolonialism, this critique is directed in multiple directions, toward international agencies as well as national and local agents. In the course of this analysis, the essay discusses other of Mambéty's films including Touki Bouki, La petite vendeuse de soleil, and Le franc, investigating particularly how issues of social mobility and stasis are developed across Mambéty's body of work. It also discusses Mambéty's work in light of works by Sembène Ousmane (Xala) and Gaston Kaboré (Wend Kuuni).