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Féral Benga's Body

Féral Benga's Body

(p.99) Chapter 6 Féral Benga's Body
Africa in Europe
James Smalls
Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the career of the Senegalese dancer Féral Benga, focusing on various visual and verbal encounters with Féral Benga’s body by a handful of modern artists and writers of the early twentieth. In interwar Paris, Benga was the male counterpart to Josephine Baker and a gay icon. The chapter argues that his body exemplifies the hybridity of European, Euroamerican, and black diasporic culture. Moreover his self-fashioning strategies and the representational performativity of that body by others brought not only Africa, but also the silence of the homoerotic and blindness to it into the orbit of Black Atlantic discourses. The reception of his body in performance and in its visual representations speaks to the desire for a homoutopic vision of humanity. For black artists and intellectuals, that vision was the key an alternate transnational vision of blackness, bringing together the primitive, the classical, the homoerotic and the African as powerful challenges to racist, homophobic and colonialising enterprises.

Keywords:   Paris, Senegalese, Féral Benga, François Benga, dance, visual representation, homoerotic, Josephine Baker

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