Colonial cinema on the Copperbelt: aspects of africans' cinema experiences in Northern Rhodesia, 1928-1964

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M'hango, Jacob
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The University of Zambia
The scope of this study revolves around Africans on the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt and their colonial cinema experiences from 1928 to 1964. Using archival sources and oral interviews (qualitative methods), it describes how Africans on the Copperbelt engaged with colonial cinema in a segregated environment, discusses some issues that contributed to the desegregation of cinema and describes how Africans experienced colonial cinema in a desegregated environment. The spread of cinema to Northern Rhodesia was due to the emergence of the copper-mining industry on the Copperbelt where colonial administrators and mine owners felt that African migrant labourers needed to be exposed to a 'civilised' form of leisure to help them recreate to be more productive on the job. The first film showing on the Copperbelt came in 1928. Cinema shows became very popular among Africans in those days, especially among the young ones. Also, while Africans watched films, they paid attention to the shortcomings of the Europeans as portrayed in some of the films. Realising that there was barely any difference for the Africans between films and reality, the Film Censorship Board (FCB) made sure to cut out from the films to be shown to Africans parts that demeaned in any way the station of the Europeans. Africans increasingly became aware of the work of the FCB and the clear separation between their cinema halls and those of the European colonialists and began to agitate for equality in cinema viewership. And the opening of the first multiracial cinema in Lusaka in 1957 only strengthened the resolve of the Africans on the Copperbelt on this front. The study argues that colonial cinema quickly became an important and effective tool for the spread and entrenchment of propaganda as well as cultural and political dominance. The Northern Rhodesia Information Service (NRIS) embarked on an outreach with mobile cinema vans in rural areas. Many studies have focused on a detailed analysis of individual films or film genres as independent entities while those that have given some attention to Africans portray them as helpless victims of colonial cinema. However, this study helps to illuminate the complex articulations between African audiences and colonial cinema on the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt. The study argues further that while the Northern Rhodesia Government (NRG) used colonial cinema to channel and advance propaganda, African audiences on the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt used colonial cinema in a way that advanced them as a people socially and politically.
Motion picture film--History--Zambia