Sharing Space

Summary of Buladó

Alexandra Brown

In the penultimate session of our Film Club, we were joined by Dr Precious Simba, a Lecturer in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Stellenbosch University. Dr Simba’s research is wide ranging, with a focus for example on Ubuntu as a philosophy of education, intersectionality, and democratic citizenship education.

Within the session we discussed Eché Janga’s, 2020 film, Buladó. The film, set in Curaçaoan (a former Dutch-Caribbean colony), centres the protagonist, eleven-year-old Kenza, who desperately seeks to navigate between two seemingly conflicting worlds, the world of Western logic and reason (personified by her father) and the world of ancestral spirituality and land reverence, embodied by Weljo, her grandfather.

Throughout the session, Dr Simba shared many insightful points of critical reflection, most notably the prevalent theme of death. Dr Simba powerfully noted that

There is a sense that even though Wiljo is fighting to keep their plot of land, it is the place where things come to die. Death shrouds not only the film but the three characters in unique ways. The film opens with Kenza killing an iguana, we soon learn she is [menstruating], her mother died and later her dog is killed.

Dr Simba, then neatly tied this into a by-product of death, mourning. Further seeking to contextualise Buladó within the context of the classroom, Dr Simba reminded us that it was made:

just before Covid-19, which brought death, dying and mourning to everyone – [including] children like Kenza. Furthermore, stories from teachers after schools re-opened, were of students dealing’ with loss.

Wishing to highlight the film’s spiritual undertones, Dr Simba noted that within African culture, the responsibility of supporting the community through the grieving process is typically the ‘preserve of elder members of society, consequently, there was something gripping about seeing a child contend with mortality.’ This point, both humbled and stimulated a rich discussion amongst the attendees.

Owing to the decolonial nature of the film club, Dr Simba was asked to describe in a word how the film, spoke to her senses. She powerfully responded, ‘Sawubona’, a greeting that is often shared within many Zimbabwean classrooms, which translates to ‘We see you’ from the Zulu language.

Dr Simba further added that the film and the subsequent discussion, allowed her to see not only Kenza, but also the story of marginalised groups whose stories are seldom told. This further acted as a necessary reminder that decolonial work, necessitates a decentring of the English language and the British colonial experience. Our not doing so surely means that we lose much knowledge, wisdom, and tools to implement effective change in the process.