Film Screening to Connect Minnesota Missionaries with the Democratization of South Africa Posted on October 21st, 2011 by

Dr. Chérif Këita

Dr. Chérif Këita, Professor of French and Francophone Literatures and Cultures at Carleton College, will present his recent documentary “Cemetery Stories: A Rebel Missionary in South Africa” at Gustavus Adolphus College on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. in room 127 of Confer Hall.

The documentary shares the story of how Minnesota-native missionaries William and Ida Belle Wilcox, who served in South Africa from 1881 to 1919, mentored and educated John Dube, who would later play a big role in democratizing the country. In addition to starting a school and a newspaper, Dube founded the African National Congress and served as its first president.

The Wilcox family returned to the United States late in their life without being recognized for the role they played in educating a man of great importance in freeing the people of South Africa, a connection only rediscovered after Dr. Këita conducted a great deal of research.

The documentary was recognized at the 2009 Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévison de Ouagadougou (FESPACO), Burkina Faso. “It’s a very popular international film festival – it means a lot that his documentary got a mention at this festival,” said Professor of French and Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies Paschal Kyiiripuo Kyoore.

The documentary links Minnesota with South Africa in a very powerful way. “People don’t really know much about that big continent we call Africa. It’s a good opportunity for students to travel into another part of the world by listening to someone present a documentary that was produced in South Africa. He makes a lot of good connections between different cultures,” said Kyoore.

Dr. Këita is a native of Mali, with special interests in oral tradition, and the relationship between music, literature, and culture in Africa. Before producing this documentary, his piece titled “Oberlin-Inanda: The Life and Times of John L. Dube” looked at the life of Dube in more detail. Dr. Këita is working on a third installment in the series. In addition to his film work, he is the author of several books, including Massa Makan Diabaté, and Salif Këita: l’oiseau sur le fromager, the latter one published in both French and English.

Dr. Këita’s visit is sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. For more information, contact Professor Kyoore at


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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