Owen 'Alik Shahadah

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Owen 'Alik Shahadah
Owen Alik Shahadah.jpg
Born 1973
Hanover, Germany
Nationality British
Occupation Film director, producer, cultural historian.
Religion Islam
Website http://www.owenshahadah.com

Owen 'Alik Shahadah (Arabic: اليك شحادة, born 1973) is a director, writer, and Pan-Africanist scholar. He specializes in African culture, African slavery, and the Arab slave trade.[1] He is best known for works that 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. He produces work that "articulates a multidimensional African world perspective".[citation needed] Testimony to this is 500 Years Later and Motherland.[2][3] As a cultural writer he is a critic of the terms black people and Sub-Saharan Africa", which he considers "products of racism to undermine African history and cultural contributions".[4] He argues for greater African agency and economic empowerment.

Education & Personal[edit]

Shahadah studied Aeronautical Engineering (BEng) in London and Zoology (Bsc) at the University of the West Indies.[5] Despite a science background his writings focus on revisiting academic racism and African history within an African framework. He is author of arabslavetrade.com, a website on the Arab slave trade in Africa.[6][7] 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[edit]

Shahadah publishes articles in a variety of African journals such as African Executive, AllAfrica, African Holocaust and Pambazuka, Zimbabwe Herald and AllAfrica.com.[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 entitled "Linguistics for a new African reality", which was adapted by the African Code. The paper identifies how sociolinguistic apply to self-determination.[15]

Film/Video list[edit]


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 five international awards including: Breaking Chains Award 2007, UNESCO[16] (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 Shahadah 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[edit]

Technique and African aesthetic[edit]

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 by 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 has created a new way of mixing music in Dolby 5.1 called split positioning.[20]

Views on African cinema[edit]

Shahadah sees film as an instrument of mass persuasion, which has been traditionally used to foster a negative image of African people globally,[21] 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."[21]

Music career[edit]

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 Scott's 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).[22] 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 1990s 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.



  1. ^ Susan Abulhawa (July 8, 2013). "Confronting anti-black racism in the Arab world". Al-Jazeera. 
  2. ^ 500 Years Later
  3. ^ Motherland Film
  4. ^ The Removal of Agency from Africa by Owen 'Alik Shahadah
  5. ^ a b Education
  6. ^ al-Saadi, Yazan (May 29, 2012). "Arab-African Ties: Severing History". alakhbar. 
  7. ^ Google Rank of Arab Slave Trade
  8. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1823281/ Owen Alik Shahadah], IMDB
  9. ^ Europe: Africa’s Alpha and Omega, Owen 'Alik Shahadah, The African Executive, November 18–25, 2009 issue
  10. ^ "Language and reality". Owen Alik Shahadah, African Holocaust Society. Retrieved January 4, 2007. 
  11. ^ "Pambazuka Online". Pambazuka. African agency. 
  12. ^ "African Executive "The Politics of White Africans"". African Executive. 
  13. ^ Owen Alik Shahadah, "Africa: The Removal of Agency From the Continent", AllAfrica, June 28, 2007.
  14. ^ "African Executive". African Executive. Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  15. ^ Linguistics for a new African reality by Owen 'Alik Shahadah, first published at the Cheikh Anta Diop conference in 2005
  17. ^ AMAA Nominees and Winners 2011, AMMA Awards
  18. ^ Motherland wins Best Documentary at ZIFF 2010
  19. ^ Motherland wins at PAFF 2010
  20. ^ "Split positioning 5.1". IMDB. Retrieved January 4, 2010. 
  21. ^ a b http://www.ricenpeas.com/docs/500years.html Rice N Peas Interview.
  22. ^ Soundtrack Listing by IMDB.

External links[edit]