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Rock Street, San Francisco

Throughout Ousmane Sembene’s film, “Black Girl”, we follow a young Senegalese woman who suffers with an internal struggle. Diouana, our main character, moves to France with her employers, once taking care of children, now a maid. We watch Diouana come to a breaking point involving identity and well being, as she struggles to figure out the true meaning of life.
Diouana is a very beautiful young woman with high expectations. She is from Dakar, a small tribal society. She took care of children as a nanny and was asked to accompany their family to Antibes in France. Upon arrival, Diouana is dressed in a proper dress with heels along with her hair done. She wears a dainty pair of white daisy earrings. Ironically, a daisy is the symbol for a innocence. At the beginning, she is so innocent and naive. She is there under the impression she will continue to take care of the children but in lushes France. She is naive to the fact she has been demoted to maid other than a caretaker. She cannot understand that her duties have changed. As Madame mocks Diouana in her outfit in front of the Madame and Monsieurs’ friends, Diouana starts to realize how her role has changed.
Once Diouana arrives to the new house, she gifts her employers. She gives them a traditional tribal mask to which they hang on their wall to accompany their other traditional African decor. In a way, this mask is a symbol of Diouana’s identity. She hands them over a special asset of hers which she personally spent money on. They take it with open arms as it is exotic and unique, just like Diouana. She gives it to them as a form of gratitude for bringing her to France to start a new life. She is beyond excited to continue to take care of the children, to make money and send it home to her sick mother back in Dakar. As Diouana becomes increasingly curious about why she is the only helper in the household, she begins to act out towards her employers. She becomes resentful for being demoted to maid. Diouana starts to ignore Madame with her orders, sleeps in bed longer than supposed to, and when Madame comes into Diouana’s room to wake her, she becomes restless and acts out like the children she is supposed to be caring for. She becomes so resentful and ashamed at what her life has come to, as we see as flashbacks to life in Dakar, she ends her own life. She was so naive about what her position was and too hopeful for change. Diouana takes her life in her employers bathtub, almost to show them what they pushed her to do.
Looking back, I don’t feel so much sympathy for Diouana. She was hopeful to change that was not in her future and too distracted by what could be to acknowledge the role she played for her employers. She thought highly of herself and felt pride in her work. She was searching for her role as caretaker in France because she believed she was better than just being a maid. Diouana comes to her breaking point while ending her life in her employers bathtub for feeling unworthy. This tragic story displayed by Sembene is still beautiful in a way because it shows the hopefulness one can have if you are with pure intentions. All Diouana cared to do was to take care of the children. Along with her mask, her identity and life was taken in a tragic way.

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