As soon as his appointment was announced, social networks broke out. Burkinabi are again proud that one of them was awarded abroad. Dr. Boukary Sawadogo, being spoken of, was voted the best teacher of the 2022 Black Studies Program at City College of New York, the oldest facility in the University of New York. In this interview, kindly provided by Lefaso.net, a native of Touya, a village located 25 kilometers from Ouahigouya in northern Burkina Faso, tells us about his career and projects for his country.
Lefaso.net: Can you introduce yourself?
Dr. Sawadogo: Som Dr. Boukary Sawadogo, teacher, researcher in African cinema, writer, director and promoter of the African Animated Cinema Festival in Harlem, New York. I teach film at the Department of Arts and Communications at City University of New York (CUNY) on the campus of City College of New York and also at the CUNY Graduate Center. In addition to African cinemas, my areas of research and teaching focus on the African diaspora, African American cinema, and black studies, which is the source of my affiliation with the Black Studies program at City College of New York.
what is your background
My origins come from a child born in Côte d’Ivoire who grew up in the village of Touya, 25 kilometers from Ouahigouya, where I obtained an A4 bachelor’s degree from the Yamway Lycée. After two years at the Department of English in Ouagadougou, I received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in applied foreign languages from Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, which I applied for through an audition. At home, I had to do casual work in Ouagadougou for several years until I succeeded in a direct competition for foreign affairs consultants. I was part of the first promotion of the Institute of Diplomatic and International Relations, which has now changed its name. Obtaining a scholarship from an American university on a personal initiative allowed me to continue my master’s and doctoral studies in this country, where I taught at two universities before I was accepted by the City University of New York in 2015.
How long have you been teaching in the United States?
I have been teaching full time since obtaining a doctorate in 2012. But I started teaching one subject per semester as a doctoral student and master’s degree.
At which university do you teach your subjects and what subjects do they relate to?
I teach at City College of New York, one of the 25 campuses that make up City University of New York, which has 275,000 students. My various courses fall into three categories or subjects. It’s about cinema: a course about different professions of cinema; Black Studies: Diaspora, Immigration, African Cities, and Creative Writing: A Course on Harlem’s Historic Township for Students Who Want to Become Writers.
Is there a difference between American pedagogy and African or Burkinaba?
From my student experiences in Ouagadougou and Dakar, I remember a knowledge transfer that was based mainly on memorization: teachers who dictate courses unchanged for a long time, and students who have to literally return those courses to control. This, of course, limits the spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship. In the United States, the teacher plays the role of facilitator in acquiring knowledge and skills because he or she is not considered an omniscient holder of knowledge, no matter how he or she is an expert in his or her field. Also, the amount of reading composed of articles and book chapters at each meeting is far beyond what I have seen in Africa. Of course, I’m not saying that African or Burkina students are less intelligent than American students.
Tell us about the Best Teacher Award you received recently; what made you different?
I received the award for the best professor of the 2022 Black Studies program at City College in New York. This award recognizes excellence in teaching and a significant contribution to the enrichment of the experience of university students and postgraduate students. In the US university system, teachers are evaluated by their peers and anonymously students in each course and semester. This award primarily celebrates excellence in teaching. On the other hand, my Henry Wasser Prize for 2021 rather celebrates research through publications.
Among how many teachers did you excel?
He is among about fifty teachers for the Best Teacher Award in 2022. The 2021 Prize was awarded to more than 12,000 teachers within the City University of New York.
What is the value of this price in the United States?
In general, awards are presented in American academia for excellence in teaching and / or honors in research. Awards can be at the level of a program, departmental, university or professional association.
What does it mean for you personally?
A reason for personal satisfaction, because nothing predestined me for an academic career in the United States. Although it is not an end in itself. We must now continue to work harder to meet future challenges.
This award is sure to open the door for you around the world. Which ones?
I am evolving in American university culture, where every prize, small or large, counts with the support of researchers. In this respect, promotion always includes opportunities and professional opportunities, the extent of which cannot always be measured immediately.
What are your relationships with fellow researchers in Burkina Faso?
I know many fellow researchers in Burkina Faso. It will now be necessary to develop frameworks or professional work initiatives beyond personal relationships.
Do you have a project for higher education in Burkina Faso?
At the moment, I am open to suggestions and opportunities that people would like to present to me for consideration.
You are a film specialist. How do you value African cinema in general and Burkina Faso in particular?
African cinemas are in an expansion phase due to a combination of several factors, including digital technology and its implications for production and distribution, reinvestment of states in cinema through cinema development funds and the audiovisual sector. Thus, in the past, the cartography of African cinemas has spread beyond the borders of several countries. However, the situation remains mixed, in some countries, such as Burkina Faso, even regressive compared to Senegal or Côte d’Ivoire. In general, we have African films and directors, but there is no film industry in sub-Saharan Africa yet. Nollywood may be an exception.
Are there similarities between African and American cinema?
If we bring American cinema back to Hollywood, I would say that it is very different from African cinemas. Hollywood is an industry powered by studio and star systems. Budget movies with distribution channels (cinema and streaming) around the world. Hollywood is a vector of American culture, an instrument of soft power. We are not there with African cinemas yet.
There are several cinematographic practices and traditions in the United States, such as independent cinema or African American cinema. He has a resemblance to African cinemas. Parallels can be found between African-American cinema and African cinematography: the historical context of the birth of each of them, the themes addressed, and African-American actors in African films, or vice versa. The film Black Panther is in many ways an example that illustrates the encounter between Africa and the Black Diaspora.
You are also a writer. How many works do you have on the counter?
In the years 2013 to 2022 I have already published four books, the fifth one will be published in 2023. I am currently writing my sixth book.
Introduction to African Studies: Introduction. Second edition (Introduction to African Film Studies, second edition). The edition is expected in 2023 by Routledge Press in Great Britain and the USA.
Africans in Harlem: An Untold Story from New York. Published in June 2022 by Fordham University Press, USA.
West African media: comedy, television series and transnationalization. Published in 2019 by University Press, Michigan State University, USA.
Introduction to African Studies: Introduction. Published in 2018 by Routledge Press in the UK and US.
Francophone West African cinemas, 1990-2005. Published in 2013 by Harmattan in Paris, France.
While waiting to find ways to make my books available in Burkina Faso, you can order them online on Amazon, Ebay, FNAC, Target and Barnes and Noble. Finally, I hope that peace will return to Faso. May God bless Burkina!
Interview with Obissa Juste MIEN