Julie Dash’s ‘Daughters of The Dust’ and The Importance of Black Womanhood
#FUBU For Us By Us: Depictions of Black Girls and Women On Film By Black Women
Nearly one hundred years after motion pictures were invented, the first nationally distributed full length, feature film by an African American was released in the winter of 1992. Julie Dash’s sixteen year journey to complete this project finally culminated in Daughters of The Dust. The film follows the generational split of a Gullah family, people of the sea lands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia who were descendants of slaves.
Most of the family is preparing to leave and go live on the mainland and much is at stake. The old traditions are feared to be washed away while some think that some of the family is being lured by the promises of new world. The film centers mostly on the women of the family and how necessary they are to both the past and the future. Set at the turn of the 20th century, Daughters of the Dust pays homage to the storied past of African Diaspora, features a unique narrator who is a valuable storyteller and embraces several definitions of Black womanhood.
Julie Dash wrote: “I always wanted to make films about African American women. To tell stories that had not been told. To show images of our lives that had not been seen.” Taking a moment to sit and meditate on these words makes viewing Daughters of the Dust even sweeter every time I watch it. It also makes me more appreciative that the film has been has remastered and released a few years ago for its 25th anniversary and is currently available for streaming on Netflix thanks in some part to Beyonce’s Lemonade.
Her visual album dropped and many pointed out the influence in the asethnics used for the imagery and even some narrative themes such as redemption that Daughters of The Dust served to inspire. How exciting in a transformative way is it that Black female creatives of today are paying homage to the creative work of Black women of the past? And in turn, I’m sure it’s inspiring Black girls and women today so I certainly look forward to what art we’ll see five, ten, fifteen years from now.
Why else is this film important? It Showcases not just one generation but several means we, the audience get to glimpse at what Black womanhood appears on screen in different bodies, different attitudes and different voices.
Read more about this film, this series and my work in a thread on Twitter here.
Carrie is a writer, editor & media Scholar with an affinity for red lipstick living in California. She writes about literature, art, cinema & amazing women here on Medium. See more of her online on Twitter and Instagram!