The Menil Collection presents an outdoor screening of the documentary film Sun of the Soil (2020, 26 minutes). Directed by Joe Penney and written by Ladan Osman, the film follows Malian artist Abdou Ouologuem’s creative journey into the myth and true history of Mansa Musa.
Mansa Musa was ruler of the largest kingdom in West Africa during the 14th century and is widely believed to have been one of the wealthiest men in human history. His hajj to Mecca with a substantial armed force in ca. 1324 is legendary for the amount of gold tribute that it transported, reportedly so large that it devalued the market in Cairo on the way. A powerful heritage intentionally discounted and obfuscated during European colonization of West Africa and nearly erased from history by the centuries of destruction caused by war, the story of Mansa Musa comes to life in Sun of the Soil.
In the film, the ruler of the Mali Empire and his history are loosely mirrored by Ouologuem’s intellectual and creative journey. As he dives more deeply into the past, guided by interventions from eminent scholars of West African history, Ouologuem explores Mansa Musa’s yearning for glory of the Mali Empire with his own aspirations in a country still recovering from the political turmoil of 2012. In his quest, Ouologuem encounters rare details about a kingdom largely erased from history, as well as insights into contemporary life in Mali. He realizes history is more complex than he imagined.
An online discussion with Penney, Osman, and Ouologuem, moderated by the Menil’s Curator of Collections Paul R. Davis will follow on Tuesday, April 27 at 1 p.m.
This film will be available for online streaming through Tuesday, April 27. For access, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.