York prof’s film about South African jazz singer previews Friday

A preview of the film Sathima’s Windsong, shot in New York City and Cape Town and directed by York anthropology and education Professor Daniel Yon, will screen Friday, April 23 at York. The film details the life history of South African-born jazz singer Sathima Bea Benjamin.

Right: Sathima Bea Benjamin

Sathima’s Windsong traces Benjamin’s story as it unfolds through her own reflections and reminiscence and is woven together with the music she has created. It also includes the reflections of five people who know her work and the milieu which shaped it. 

In her flat in the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where she has lived for 32 years, Benjamin patches together her journeys, both literal and figurative. Those journeys have taken her from apartheid South Africa and “the pattern of brokenness” she grew up in to Europe where a chance meeting and recording with Duke Ellington took place. From there, she was on to New York where she started afresh and set up her own record company.

Left: Daniel Yon

“As it moves back and forth between Cape Town and New York, to the lyrics and rhythm of her music, it becomes, much like the title of her haunting song Windsong, a reflection on history, time and place, on apartheid, anti-apartheid and their legacies, as well as the passionate questions of memory, displacement and belonging,” says Yon.  

This is not Yon’s first effort at making an ethnographic film. “In fact, it continues some of the themes and concerns of an earlier film, One Hundred Men (2007), to do with memory, place, belonging, travel, identity. The qualities of Sathima Benjamin’s music attracted my attention and my conversations with her revealed a fascinating history of ‘journeys’,” he says.

Right: Sathima Bea Benjamin performing

The film will screen from 3:30 to 5:30pm at the Nat Taylor Cinema, N102 Ross Building., Keele campus. After the preview screening, a wine and cheese reception will follow in the Founders Senior Common Room, 305 Founders College, Keele campus. Admission to the film is free.

RSVP by Wednesday, April 21, to Emily Tjimos, administrative assistant in the Faculty of Education, at etjimos@edu.yorku.ca or at 416-736-2100 ext. 66301.