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Alik Shahadah

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Title: Alik Shahadah  
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Subject: Atlantic slave trade, Eurocentrism, Culture of Africa, Runoko Rashidi, Subaltern (postcolonialism), Ocacia, Black orientalism
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Alik Shahadah

Owen 'Alik Shahadah
Born 1973
Hanover, Germany
Occupation Film director, producer, cultural historian and activist.

Owen 'Alik Shahadah (born 1973) (Arabic: اليك شحادة) is a director, African writer, and scholar. He specializes in African culture, African slavery, and the Arab slave trade.[1] He is best known for authoring works, which deal with African history, social justice, environmental issues, education and world peace. Born in Hanover, Germany and educated in England, New York, and the Caribbean, Shahadah is of a new generation of African Diaspora filmmakers inspired by the likes of Malcolm X and Kwame Ture. He produces work that articulates a multidimensional African world perspective. Testimony to this is 500 Years Later and Motherland (film).[2][3] As a cultural writer he is a leading critic of the terms black people and Sub-Saharan Africa, he states they are products of racism to undermine African history and cultural contributions.[4] He argues for greater African agency and economic empowerment.

Education & Personal

Shahadah studied He spent his teenage years growing up in Brooklyn New York. He also professes to a keen interest in Anthropology, Natural history, Linguistics and is a qualified PADI divemaster (scuba diver).[5]

His former father-in-law was socialist St Lucian politician George Odlum. Odlum's daughter, now Shahadah's ex-wife, was also lead singer for Ocacia.[8]

Published work

Shahadah publishes articles in a variety of African journals such as African Executive, AllAfrica, African Holocaust and Pambazuka, Zimbabwe Herald and[9][10][11][12][13] Shahadah maintains that progressive African history keeps Africans as the primary agents of African history within an African cultural paradigm while at the same time meeting the highest threshold of good scholarship. He asserts that the tradition of "tarzan" or the hunter writing the history of Africa is an ongoing colonial threat to self-determination and justice.[14] Alik Shahadah however states that "History and culture are far too dynamic to exclusively be articulated through the narrow window of race and color." He has written audio productions such as Torn land: Palestine, African Holocaust: Dark Voyages and co-written Afrikan Kingdoms. He has written a paper titled Linguistics for a new African reality which was adapted by the African Code. The paper identifies how sociolinguistic apply to self-determination.[15] He is a critic of the terms black people and Sub-Saharan Africa, he states they are products of racism to undermine African history and cultural contributions.[4] He also writes on slavery in Africa, Arabia and the Americas.[16] He lobbies for free movement in Africa and an economic empowerment of African people globally and especially in places where they are the majority in the population.[17]

Film/Video List


Shahadah is best known for directing the documentary 500 Years Later, an influential film that explores the psycho-cultural effects of slavery and colonialism in the African Diaspora. The film won 5 international awards including: Breaking Chains Award 2007, UNESCO [18] (presented at ZIFF film festival in Zanzibar, Best Documentary at the Pan African (Los Angeles) and Bridgetown (Barbados) Film Festivals; Best Film at the International Black Cinema (Berlin) Film Festival; and Best International Documentary at the Harlem (New York) International Film Festival. It was nominated for 'Best of the Best' at FESPACO. In October 2005, 500 Years Later was screened at the Millions More Movement. Philadelphia Weekly wrote, "When participants gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for the Millions More Movement rally last month, they also became one of the largest film audiences in history." He has also directed The Idea with (Tunde Jegede), a black comedy, as well as the political documentary Our Story Our Voice (2007) which was selected for Best Documentary at the Pan-African Film Festival. In 2004 he began working on the multi-award winning documentary Motherland 2010. Motherland is one of the first Pan-African documentaries on the continent of Africa.

Awards and nominations

Technique & African Aesthetic

Shahadah is seen as one of the next generation of African Diaspora filmmakers, who draws from the masters of African cinema. Shahadah believes that Africans must develop an authentic African aesthetic and bring this into film culture. He also stresses that all art in the traditional African senses is socially functional. As a filmmaker he is noted for emphasizing music to film synchronization. He stresses that African film, like African music (both of the continent and the Diaspora), has a rhythm which is the fundamental inner harmony that sets up a unique African sensibility. His documentaries never use narration and are driven my music, strong flashing images set to music and spoken word and rich color. Unique in documentary, Shahadah uses heavy dramatic film scores, typical of epic movies. He says his films are a four-part harmony of information produced by images, music, text and dialog. For Motherland Shahadah claims he created a new way of mixing music in Dolby 5.1 called split positioning.[22]

He approaches cinema from a jazz paradigm and states: "If you want to understand the concept of a paradigm shift go and study jazz; it is the most perfect example of an African aesthetic. Because it has agency it can absorbs worldly influences but still expresses an African sensibility. Like a language, jazz is grammatically Africa while its lexicon is varied."[23]

Views on African Cinema

Shahadah sees film as an instrument of mass persuasion, which has been traditionally used to foster a negative image of African people globally,[24] he therefore believes film is one of the most potent weapons to re-image African and solidify a Pan-African identity. Owen Shahadah is a critic of Nollywood and popular “African American cinema” which he believes cheapens the perception of African culture; “it re-emphasizes, by imitation, a culturally shallow notion of African people, it serves more for the entertainment of Europeans than anything else.” But he praised Nollywood for its economic impact and for offering an alternative African selection. "Economically Nollywood is a blessing but it must learn to be loyal to the art of the film industry and not capitalism."[24]

Music career

Producers and pianist in the Jazz-Fusion band Ocacia, who have performed at numerous international jazz festivals, including the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival in 2000. The band has also played at many of the key London Jazz venues including Ronnie Scotts and WKD. As a composer, Shahadah has written over 400 songs including the hit Tear for the World and If I… (co-written by Sona Jobarteh).[25] Shahadah also wrote the opening theme for 500 Years Later with African percussionist Mamedi Kamara.

Shahadah is involved in Pan-African development and in the early to late 90’s trained and invested in renowned Tanzanian music producer Joachim Kimaryo of MJ Records. Shahadah and Kimaryo continued to exchange and develop what has today has blossomed into the largest urban music industry in Tanzania.


  • BBC radio Debate "Racism against Africa"
  • Rice N Peas Interview
  • SABC Morning Show
  • Deconstructing the hurt


External links

  • Owen 'Alik Shahadah
  • Internet Movie Database
  • What is the Idea
  • 500 Years Later Film site
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