How Far Racial Discrimination Went In Africa?

By: Jonathan Torres

The life of two girls that feel attraction to each other started being affected by a new strict system of rules that was imposed in their homeland South Africa, which restricted them from having a free and normal relationship.

This is the main idea of The World Unseen, a movie offered in March 5, 2014 in the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez as part of the V Coloquio “¿Del Otro Lao? Perspectivas Sobre Sexualidades Queer” (From the other side? Perspectives about queer sexualities). The screening was part of a film series and was attended by 10 people who gathered in Salón Tarzán at 7:00 p.m.

The film is set in 1950 in South Africa, where Apartheid, a system of racial separation and discrimination, was imposed by the government. This system consisted in the creation of isolated places for each of the racial groups, giving exclusive authorization to white people to vote, and prohibitting marriage between white and black people. This lasted until 1992.

Amina is the manager of Location Café, a humble family restaurant. She lives her life on her own terms regardless of the consequences she may face. Miriam, mother of three children and wife chauvinist Oscar, shows shyness towards the system. Another character, Jacob, makes a side appearance. He is a black person dreaming of being a white mailman so that he can work for Madeleine, a woman for whom he feels attraction to. Another character, Rehmat, who is the black sister of Oscar, marries a white man. Amina protects her from the authorities.

Amina accepts a job in the backyard of Miriam’s house. The tenderness of Amina catches Miriam’s attention and gives her a sign of a possible attraction between them. The rest of the movie explores their relationship and how they manage to live a lesbian life inside the strict parameters of Apartheid.

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Screening of The World Unseen at the Salón Tarzán (UPRM) on March 5.

In an interview made to Dr. Lissette Rolón Collazo, 48, coordinator of the Colloquium and professor of comparative literature at UPRM, she said that the term queer is a word that was used to refer to something odd. Later on, it was used to insult people with different sexual orientations. Years later, these people, tired of being insulted, adopted this term with the purpose of converting an insult into a celebration or afirmation.

In an interview found at www.popmatters.com with the director of The World Unseen, Shamim Sarif, he was asked about the idea of taking risks in life. “The World Unseen,” said Sarif, “is more of a meeting of minds, though definitely on Amina’s side, there is a very strong romantic attraction. But it’s more symbolic about opening perceptions and breaking some molds that we all just accept.”

At the end of the movie, Rolón started a small conversatory in which she asked questions related to the movie and how it can be compared to actual life. The group agreed that society is still discriminating people with different sexual orientations and races.

The Coloquio is an event held every two years since 2006 with the purpose of creating an open forum of students and people to discuss topics such as discrimination.

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