Jean Marie Teno: African Documentarian

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Jean Marie Teno
Jean Marie Teno

Jean Marie Teno is perhaps the best known and most internationally recognized African documentary filmmaker. Born in Cameroon, his work has been exhibited throughout Europe and Africa leading to his recent tenure as resident artist at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

At Wellesley, he and Professor Margaret Burnham of the Restorative Justice Institute and Northeastern University Law School developed a friendship inspired by his work on women in Africa. At her urging, he screened Chosen, a work in progress, at the museum in the early summer.

Chosen explores the complicated experiences of a Ghanian-born professor of literature in the United States who returns home and finds herself drafted into being “enstooled” as a Queen Mother. Her ambivalence as well as the thoughts of her daughter give insights into their psychological responses when confronted with traditional cultural practices. The encounter between village and modern urban expectations are probed in intriguing and revealing ways. The discussion following the screening was rich as Teno shared how he became interested in the topic, and how working with the women had shifted his perspective on cultural expectations and individualism in contemporary Africa.

Professor Burnham is co-chair of the board of directors of the National Center of Afro-American Artists.

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