We have been away for a while, but we are coming back soon to announce our plans for 2021.
In the meantime, subscribe to our brand new Youtube channel on which we will be hosting upcoming events!
We have been away for a while, but we are coming back soon to announce our plans for 2021.
In the meantime, subscribe to our brand new Youtube channel on which we will be hosting upcoming events!
Our next seminar takes place on the 14th of May in Seminar Room 2 of the Leeds Arts Humanities Research Institute at 4 pm. The open to all.
Translocality, Small Magazines and Nigerian Poetry by Rachel Bower
This paper considers some of the small literary magazines that emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Ibadan and Leeds, with a particular focus on the poetry published in The Horn (University College, Ibadan, est. 1958) and Poetry and Audience (University of Leeds, est. 1953). I look closely at the work of Minji Karibo, a student at Ibadan, and also consider other magazines, including Outposts (Hull), Ibadan (Ibadan) and Fresh Buds (Nsukka). The paper focuses on these specific examples as case studies from the period of decolonisation, in which multiple and diverse literary communities experienced a series of locally specific transformations. The concept of translocality therefore underpins this investigation into the African literary materials that developed in this period.
The informal, often student-run, magazines from this period were underpinned by literary relations between Nigeria and the UK, and sometimes by direct collaboration between poets in Ibadan and Leeds. Writers with connections to both cities contributed to or edited The Horn and Poetry and Audience for instance, including Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark, Aigboje Higo, Kalu Uka, Tony Harrison, James Simmons, Martin Banham, John Heath-Stubbs and Geoffrey Hill. Some of these writers are now celebrated as national literary heroes. This paper not only adds to existing evidence showing that student magazines were important in constituting literary communities in Africa (and the UK) during this period, however, but also shows that we must look beyond the ‘nation’ if we are to better understand how literary relations shape literary aesthetics – in this case, African literary materials in English. The paper combines close reading with an analysis of the literary fields in which these magazines were produced, to show how translocality and collaboration are key to understanding the craft of a key generation of poets in Britain and Nigeria during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
About Our Speaker
Dr Rachel Bower is a poet and a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. She is the author of Epistolarity and World Literature, 1980-2010 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and Moon Milk (Valley Press, 2018). She is the co-editor of a special issue of English Studies on Tony Harrison, and a special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature on the crafts of world literature. Rachel also edited the Verse Matters anthology with Helen Mort (Valley Press, 2017). Her poems have been published in Stand Magazine, New Welsh Reader, The Interpreter’s House, Frontier, Popshot Magazineand many other places and she has also been shortlisted for the London Magazine Poetry Prize and won several other poetry prizes.
30 April 2019
Leeds Humanities Arts Research Institute (Seminar Room 2)
Singeli, Urban Space and the Temporalities of Electronic Music Production in Dar es Salaam by David Kerr
As Bayat has argued, the street is the public space “par excellence” for those excluded from the institutions of public life in which people can “assemble, make friends, earn a living, spend their leisure time, and express discontent” (Bayat 2013, 52). In this paper, I explore the emergence at street events in Dar es Salaam’s informal settlements of a new electronically produced musical genre, Singeli. Unplanned settlements, known as uswahilini, the area where the Swahili live, were central to the development of Singeli. Uswahilini exist largely on the margins of the state and this absence of state regulation affords distinct possibilities for creative expression.
Performed at street gatherings on the edges of the cities political, social and musical infrastructure, Singeli began when DJs isolated, looped and increased the speed of instrumental sections of older popular Tanzanian songs, thus enabling singers to perform live over popular tracks. This bricolage of older Tanzanian song snippets produced a unique sonic landscape. Singeli sonically embodies the space of uswahilini. In this paper, I explore the role that its location socially and geographically has played in the creation and circulation of Singeli. I suggest the relationship between Singeli and the genres from which it borrows to constitute itself provide a lens through which to explore how young people play with the multiple temporalities of nostalgia and anticipation as well as those of the past, present and future.
Crossings, Convivialities and Imaginings: Music and Zimbabwean Struggles with Abjection by Lennon Mhishi
This discussion is an attempt at sounding out the question, to borrow from Yvonne Vera, “Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals?” when it comes to writing and thinking Africa, Zimbabwe in particular. In asking this question, some of the entanglements of power and knowledge may be encountered. The dominant narrative on Zimbabwe, like most of Africa, has been on tyranny and crisis. A substantive body of work on Zimbabwean ‘migrants’— especially in South Africa and the UK,—has provided an important foundation for understanding the complexities of (im)mobility, especially in relation to the socio-political and economic challenges of the past decade and counting in Zimbabwe. Part of the present struggle, if it can be characterised as such, is how to begin or continue to theorise being Zimbabwean outside, or not over-archingly defined by, the sensational and necrophiliac politics that have been the dominant lens through which Zimbabwe has been viewed. I propose to explore this through the transnational experiences of ethnographic work conducted in London on music, identity and belonging, and recent travels to Zimbabwe. In a sense, these entail some of the conversations concerning African migration and diaspora. Music here is the thread I am using to suture imaginings of Zimbabwe from within, and outside. To write or think of an outside, and to also acknowledge how music exists within, and can inherently cohere with politics, somewhat constitutes in this instance a rejection of any fundamental outside in itself. It caters more to a movement, a dancing and swinging around the politics, (un)bounded and institutional, quotidian and simultaneously ,carried by and within Zimbabwean bodies, even in realms imagined as outside the physical borders and the dominant tropes of the politics of Zimbabwe, or being Zimbabwean.
About Our Speakers
Dr David Kerr is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg working on street performance, everyday epistemologies and urban space, in Dar es Salaam. His obtained a PhD from the University of Birmingham in 2014 and has published in his fields of cultural and social anthropology, cultural studies and media studies.
Dr Lennon Mhishi is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Politics department at the University of Liverpool. Prior to joining the University of Liverpool, Lennon has conducted ethnographic research in Harare, Johannesburg, and London. His doctoral work in anthropology, at SOAS University of London, explored the migrant and diasporic experiences of music, identity and belonging amongst Zimbabweans in London, whilst foregrounding these experiences as part of the genealogy of African and black presence and expressive culture in Britain. He is currently part of a project, led by Professor Alex Balch, exploring how the arts and humanities can be utilised in tackling contemporary forms of slavery in Sub-Saharan Africa.
16 April 2019
Leeds Humanities Arts Research Institute (Seminar Room 2)
Travel writing, as a genre, has a unique power to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct the identity of any foreign space and its inhabitants for the world. It is through travel literature that the world has seen, felt and traversed the other world. This genre has not only been instrumental in defining, describing and detailing the unseen lands, such as Africa, for the other part of the world, specifically the western world. Rather, it has also influenced the ways through which the indigenous know and understand themselves and their land.
For a significant amount of time the genre has been known as a western tool of representation of faraway lands for western utilitarian and adventurous eyes. However, since last decade a notable shift in this power structure of knowledge production can be seen with the fame of African authored travel narratives about Africa. African authors could be seen grappling with the westernised construction of African identity, through their travel narratives. Though the canon of African travel writers could be seen confronting the stereotypical image constructed by the Victorian travellers, still the relevance and continuous presence of the colonial nostalgia cannot be ruled off.
This paper proposes to discuss the travel narratives by three contemporary African travel writers: Orford Catja, Sihle Khumalo and Maskaram Hailey. The paper will discuss the representation of African space by these travellers in context with their own struggle for identity. How the authors position their identity in context with bigger African identity? What influence do (or do not) the Victorian travellers hold in the contemporary world of African travellers? How relevant is this influence when compared to the African space, that is, how deeply (or not) the colonial nostalgia is rooted in the African structure of self-knowledge?
In the spring of 2018, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s 1988 novel Nervous Conditions was placed on BBC Culture’s list of “100 stories that shaped the world,” a list meant to reinscribe the global importance of the selected texts and to contribute to their durability as cross-cultural and transnational “classics” and open a discussion about the endurance of some texts and not others. It is important to be aware of Nervous Conditions’ place in this global literary canon and its continued prominence in the academy because this novel and its sequels are, in part, bearing witness to a traumatizing and epistemicidal colonial education. Before the third book was published, the scholarly conversation about Dangarembga’s first two novels hopefully anticipated that This Mournable Body would narratively close the traumatic wounds opened in Nervous Conditions. This closure is subverted and complicated by the final book, published in 2018, which shows that Tambudzai Sigauke’s difficult project of recuperating herself in postcolonial Zimbabwe continues beyond the final page of the novel, just as the project of decolonization continues and is continuous with earlier processes of existence and resistance. That is, Dangarembga’s novels are structured in the style of what I am calling a literary longue durée, a textual space and temporality that bears witness to the continuity of colonial and postcolonial circumstances and that is informed by the traumas of a colonial education. Through a deconstructive micro-analysis of passages from all three books featuring the linked themes of language, education, punishment, consumption, and nourishment, I argue that colonial education is a force that consumes the mother tongue (language), is responsible for an epistemicidal bingeing and purging cycle of consuming only imposed literatures and histories, and is in tension with the consumption of food and the recuperative (consumption as recuperation) gesture of Tambudzai’s own mother’s tongue.
Kiranpreet Kaur is a Ph.D student at Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham. She is working on both British and African authored African Travel Writings under the supervision of Dr. Rebecca Jones and Dr. Kate Skinner from the Department of African Studies and Anthropology and Dr. Asha Rogers from Department of English. Her work focuses on African identity construction in colonial and postcolonial Anglophone African Travel narratives. She holds an M.Phil degree in English from the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India. She has published in various research journals and has also published a book that is a collection of poems in Punjabi language. Along with this, she has worked as a creative head for Bombay based Film Company. She has written fiction and non-fiction for them for two years.
Aislinn Kelly is currently pursuing an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature, Culture, and Thought in the School of English at the University of Sussex. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of North Florida (UNF) in Fall 2017 with a BA in English. She is interested in the way literature uses archives and in the textual-biological tension between bodies and the archives that represent, replace, and erase them. Her literary-critical interests inform her practice. She has assisted a historian in the Weston Library, Oxford, with transcribing colonial papers and has experience working on a number of archival projects, including the digitization of the Eartha M. M. White papers in the UNF special collections. Most recently, she has helped move the print archive of the Total Theatre Magazine into an online repository. Her other research interests include disability studies and non-canonical WWI literature. Her article “Passing Through a World of Birds: The Performance and Signification of Blindness in Stephen Kuusisto’s Planet of the Blind” was published in 2018 in The Sigma Tau Delta Review. She has presented her research on WWI writing at the 13th International Robert Graves Society Conference, at St. John’s College, Oxford, and the SHARP affiliate panel at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA88).
Our first seminar in the 2019 series will be delivered on 02 April in Seminar Room 2 of the Leeds Arts Humanities Research Institute at 4 pm. The open to all.
“A revolting immoral place”: Town Life and Sexuality in R.R.R. Dhlomo’s An African Tragedy by Sanja Nivesjö
R.R.R. Dhlomo’s An African Tragedy (1928) – one of the first novels published in English by a black South African author – written in the form of a morality tale and steeped in Christian ethics, depicts the moral corruption of a black man from the countryside in the urban environment of 1920s Johannesburg, and the effects of this corruption on his family in the rural village.
In the 1920s, hegemonic forces in the nascent South African nation posited the rural as the black person’s “natural” home, at the same time as black urbanisation was rapidly increasing. I argue that Dhlomo negotiates the theme of urban-rural relations and mediates ideas of race and their relation to space through the trope of sexuality. The urban seemingly becomes a hostile environment through its sexually corrupting influence of prostitutes, single men, loose sexual morals, and syphilis, which constitute a threat to the rural Christian patriarchal family. By reading the novel from perspectives that critically interrogate sexual norms and space as a social construct, I argue that the black person’s lived experience of space and sexuality, as represented in the novel, disrupts and displaces this moral lesson of black familial happiness in the countryside to indicate Dhlomo’s engagement with a more complex spatial belonging.
An African Tragedy thus allows its reader insight into the contradictory conditions under which black South Africans lived in the city of the 1920s, and the ideological position that the rural space held, and how these conflicting experiences took expression and were imagined in early English language literature.
“This Fucking Forest”:
The Bush as a Traumatic Space in African Literature by Elinor Rooks
The bush occupies a special place within African literature. From the earliest moments of African publishing—Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1955)—the bush has functioned as a particularly potent literary space, one which blurs boundaries between the real and fantastic, the internal and external, the past and the present. These literary uses of the bush are rooted in the history of African vernacular theories of the bush. Vernacular theories of the bush make many uses of it, including reckoning with traumatic histories. Just as the bush enfolds villages abandoned to war, it holds the spirits and ghosts that enact these troubling histories.
I propose to explore literary uses of the bush as a space of trauma, focusing on Tutuola’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1957) and Chris Abani’s Song for Night (2007). Both authors use the bush as a space of death, war and memory. Set during two civil wars—the Yoruba Wars and the Biafran War—the novels track dislocated boys journeying through nightmarish, ghostly forests populated with spirits embodying the terrors of war. Abani’s protagonist retraces his steps, moving through the distorted spaces of traumatic memory, towards acceptance of his own death. For the ghost My Luck, there is no stable boundary between the inner and outer worlds—his memories are overlaid onto and merge with the blighted countryside. There is no distinction between the ruined landscape and his ruined mind. Although the bush functions similarly in Tutuola’s novels, critics have missed this. Abani’s clear use of the bush helps highlight its functions in Tutuola. Just as the physical bush resists mapping, the literary bush opens smooth textual spaces, enabling authors to tackle painful topics with fierce freedom.
About our Speakers
Sanja Nivesjö is completing a joint PhD at the Department of English, Stockholm University, Sweden and Justus Liebig University, Germany. She is interested in South African literature, sexuality and gender studies, and queer theory. Her PhD project looks at the relationship between sexuality and spatiality in 20th and 21st century South African literature in English. From a queer theoretical perspective she looks at how sexuality is both represented and used as a trope in the literature to negotiate belonging to different types of spaces, and in extension a belonging to community and, perhaps, to the nation. She has published an essay on the queering of literary form and content in response to a crisis of whiteness in Nadine Gordimer’s novel The Conservationist (1974) and in J.M. Coetzee’s novel In the Heart of the Country (1977). Together with Heidi Barends from UCT, she is the guest editor of a forthcoming special issue on Olive Schreiner’s novel From Man to Man (1926) for the Journal of Commonwealth Literature.
Elinor Rooks is an independent researcher in African literature, history and culture. She completed her PhD at the University of Leeds with her dissertation, “Vernacular Critique, Deleuzo-Guattarian Theory and Cultural Historicism in West African and Southern African Literatures,” focussing on the novels of Bessie Head and Amos Tutuola. She is currently researching responses to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and is authoring a book on Tutuola. She also serves as the reviews editor for Red Pepper Magazine and works as a freelance editor.
Call for Papers
Contemporary Africas, Creative Africas: Conceptual and Methodological Advances in African Studies
University of Leeds
4-5 April 2019
How does one make sense of Africa – as a place and an idea – today? How should we study the dynamics in African societies and cultures as part of our constantly shifting world with its paradoxes of globalisation and locality, postcoloniality and neo-colonialism, a neo-liberal world order and alternative collective imaginaries? How are cultural objects and performances shaping the way that Africa is figured imaginatively and what kind of politics is emerging around cultural representation? What are the innovative concepts and methodologies needed to engage and understand Africa, both as a site of critical new plays for power – between ‘the people’ and ‘the state’ for instance – and as an actor in a changing global political environment? What theoretical and methodological advances are required to push African Studies as a field beyond its problematic histories and trajectories, and to take seriously the quest for decolonisation?
Building on its long history of a multidisciplinary and critical study of African societies, cultures and politics, the Leeds University Centre for African Studies invites proposals for panels and papers with cutting-edge empirical and theoretical research into Africa’s multiple realities, dynamics and meanings. We specifically welcome contributions that probe new methods and concepts from across the social sciences and humanities in order to advance our understanding of Africa as a place and an idea, and the state of African Studies as a field.
We are interested in any proposal that addresses the above questions. For instance, we welcome paper and panel proposals about:
Call for Papers
Finding Africa Seminar Series
University of Leeds
In light of contemporary concerns with decolonisation and meditations on the meaning of the continent of Africa, both within the academy and beyond, we invite papers concerned with African Places, African Spaces as part of our 2019 seminar series hosted in collaboration with the Leeds University Centre for African Studies and Leeds School of English.
For this series, we are interested in papers that address the ways in which Africa is figured as a place and how it occupies space in global thought. This interrogation involves questions about African ontologies, epistemologies, philosophies and literatures comparatively within the continent itself, in relation to other postcolonial contexts, and in terms of its contentious relationship with ‘the West’ or ‘North’.
Proposals can also address the primary question in relation to any of the following:
We are accepting proposals from any discipline and especially interdisciplinary work in this area. Proposals must be a maximum of 300 words (in Word format) and submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 January 2019.
The recent passing of South Africa’s poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile has occasioned an outcry regarding the relative absence of exiled writers in this country’s curricula and public discourse. South African literary history maintained, until the mid-2000s, the idea that the 1960s was a period of silence in South African cultural production. Numerous prominent writers were exiled by the stranglehold of apartheid, and these absent histories are directly linked to the regrettable state of cultural workers, dead and alive, who were actors in the worlding of South African literature, when a fascist regime sought to provincialize and delegitimize their intellectual pursuits. The effects of this are a warped and distorted perception of our knowledge systems – an onto-epistemic disillusionment.
Because of banning, censorship and the threat of imprisonment, South African cultural workers have produced art in almost every continent, in what could be deemed subterranean conditions, and the consequence of this is the lacuna we are confronted with today in our attempts to recover, engage, expose, teach, and promote their work. Our project ‘Recovering Subterranean Archives’, is directed at research into a range of literary, visual, and performance texts that currently remain in exile. The project’s main objective is to investigate South Africa’s deterritorialized national culture. The call for decolonization is a call for this library to surface and to be disseminated, diffusing the uniformity of colonial archives and epistemology which persist even under democracy.
Accordingly, we would like to host a two-day conference in which we explore South African cultural work in exile. Areas of interest include (but are not limited to)
We will circulate a programme once all abstracts have been received. All submissions should be 300-word abstracts, which can be emailed to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 15 November 2018. Please include your affiliation (if any), along with your contact details and any access, dietary or other requirements you have. We welcome proposals for the delivery of presentations through art, performance, poetry, multimedia or any other mode of creative expression.
This anthology is the culmination of a pilot project called Thinking Outside the Penalty Box (2018), that Nick Makoha and Lizzy Attree started in 2016, supported by funding from the Arts Council, and produced in partnership with Arsenal, Chelsea and the Poetry Society.
The project attempts to showcase African footballers in a positive light. The main motivation of the work in Thinking Outside the Penalty Box is to tackle racism with positive, inspirational stories and ideas around the incredible achievements of players. The project focuses on examples of positive change in football and uses poetry to evoke and articulate the complex feelings and emotions bound up in the lives of African footballers. You can read some of the poems from this collection here.
Thinking Outside the Penalty Box aims to:
We worked with Chelsea and Arsenal Football Clubs’ education teams on a series of workshops about the lives of African footballers that play or have played for their clubs.
In total we produced 9 workshops with Chelsea and Arsenal for children at primary schools working with around 100 students. It’s had a great impact on the kids we’ve worked with in London primary schools. Eniola Aluko was one of the main footballers we focussed on in the Chelsea workshops, along with the legendary Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, and her story had a dramatic impact on the children we worked with. At Arsenal we focussed on Kanu and his heart foundation and Chioma Ubogabu who plays for Arsenal Ladies.
You are knocked down, but you rise,
Running towards the net,
You were ready to fly
And you flew.
from ‘Eniola Aluko’ by Amelia Doherty
We partnered with Chelsea’s Education Team to visit Sir John Lillie Primary School, Sulivan Primary School and Marlborough Primary School, delivering workshops about the lives of African footballers to children aged 9-10 years old. The children composed poems during the workshop and responded to the sessions with feedback that included responses to the question: Did the workshop change your idea of African footballers?
Arsenal’s incredible Education and Literacy team produced an amazing 59-page booklet ‘Arsenal African Allstars’ for their Double Club that went out to all the schools they work with on literacy projects in 3 boroughs. Children from Hanover Primary School and St Andrews Primary School attended the workshops at the Arsenal Hub delivered by poets Theresa Lola and Sugar J, toured the Emirates stadium and played football in rotation. There was great feedback from one of the Year 2 teachers:
We are pleased to announce that the next seminar in our Theorising Africa series will be a paper titled “Libya’s Trapped African Migrants: A Case of Postmodern Slavery” which will be delivered by Nolwazi Nadia Ncube on 24 April at 4pm in the LHRI Seminar Room 1. This series is hosted in association with LUCAS and is open to all. Feel free to join our Facebook community to keep up with future events and announcements.
This paper adopts an interdisciplinary approach bringing together the field of Media Studies and Sociology, using Ross Kemp’s 2017 documentary entitled ‘Libya’s Migrant Hell’ as an entry point into the reconceptualization of this particular case of trapped migration as a form of not only postcolonial, but postmodern slavery. In this case study, migrants predominately from Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Sudan in an exodus to Europe via Libya are taking great stakes for a ‘better life’ in Europe. Within this process of pursuing a better life, some of these migrants are held ransom for the price of their continued; exploited and exposed to gendered vulnerabilities and harm en route to Italy. They are trapped in an existence that is neither here – in their country of origin – nor there – in their desired destination. The paper explores these migrants through the lens of the ‘fourth space’, which is drawn from Bhabha’s (1994) concept of a ‘third space’.
This paper proposes that these African migrants exist in fourth space – trapped, unwanted, unrecognised and forgotten by (i) Libya, (ii) Europe and (iii) their home country. The paper critiques the Weberian concept of ‘lebeschancen’ (life chances) employing the Ndebele proverb ‘ithemba alibulali’ (hope does not kill) as an extended metaphor and African appropriation of their condition that encapsulates the dehumanizing dangers of seeking a better life at any and all costs. The operationalization of this proverb into a conceptual tool in this paper marks une petite rupture with the transposition of African theories into and onto existing frames of European philosophical thought. In a quasi-non-conformist fashion, the paper breaks away from rather than replicates and re-enforces value-laden binaries such as better/worse, modern/traditional and developed/developing amidst a dominant tide of academic rhetoric in which ‘indigenous’ and ‘ethno’ are prefixed to African epistemologies in such a way as to delegitimise them as theories by fixating on their locality. In this instance Ndebele refers to the language spoken by the same-named African tribe in Zimbabwe, also known as the Matabele.
About Nolwazi Nadia Ncube
Nolwazi Nadia Ncube is a PhD student at the Department of Sociology at the University of Aberdeen. Her main research interests are the Sociology of Reproduction and the Body, Socio-linguistics, Gender Studies, Development Studies, Public Health and Transmigration Studies. She is Elphinstone Scholar at the University of Aberdeen who is interested in theory from and of Africa and her PhD topic which is titled, Menstruation Narratives: Through Narratives of the Zimbabwean Rural Girl Child aims to capture cultural narrative in a work linked to a program that she founded in 2015 called ‘Save the Girl-with-a-Vision’ (SGV). The program supports 70 girls in the village of Mbizingwe in Esigodini, Zimbabwe. Through SGV, Nadia advocates for the sexual reproductive health and rights of rural girl and widens the access to sanitary wear for the SGV programme beneficiaries in an effort to curb school girl absenteeism. Nadia speaks Ndebele, Zulu, Shona, French and English. She considers her proficiency in these languages to be a rich archive from which critical theories of Africa can be accessed and transformed.
Nadia holds three degrees in Sociology from UCT – a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), a Bachelor of Social Science (Honours) in Development Studies and Master of Social Science in Global Studies. During her master’s she was the awardee of the merit-based International Student Scholarship. She has a heart for the plight of women, children and marginalised groups and is a published poet, journalist and creative writer with a fourthcoming article in the African Journal of Social Work entitled, ‘Citizenship Alterities: The Case of Birth Registration: the Case of Birth Registrations in the Tongogara Refugee Camp of Zimbabwe’ (Ncube, Chimbwanda & Willie, 2018).
The next seminar paper in our Theorising Africa series will be delivered by Stephen Bulman and is entitled “Re-thinking Sunjata: epics and epistemology in West African oral narratives”. The seminar will take place on 27 March at the LHRI seminar room 1 at 4pm. The event is free and open to all.
African oral epics, in common with African oral traditions as a whole, have in the past too often been understood as hallowed messages from the past, handed down unchanged from generation to generation. New thinking based on analysis of Manding epics about Sunjata Keita and his rival for power Sumanguru Kante, two legendary rulers from the pre-colonial era, suggests that such oral traditions are part of a cultural meta-discourse fashioned and re-fashioned over time in response to social and political shifts; and their tellers, hereditary griots or jeliw, intellectual actors whose narratives help shape and re-form the identities of, and relationships between, cultural and social groups. This seminar will examine how the recently published Epic of Sumanguru Kante, a narrative retelling medieval Mali’s foundation from the perspective of Sunjata’s defeated rival, offers fresh insights into the role of African historical oral poetry in shaping Manding ‘oral historiography’ and epistemology.
He said: It is true, indeed, I came with my name. My name is Soo-Maanguru. That’s the meaning of being Sumanguru. He said: I, here, I will not be slave. I will not be lackey.
– Bulman The Epic of Sumanguru Kante (2017)
About Stephen Bulman
Stephen Bulman (Ph.D. Birmingham 1990) studied the Epic of Sunjata as a doctoral student. He has taught history at Newman University in Birmingham, worked as an academic at Leeds Trinity University and Cumbria University, and has published several studies of the Epic of Sunjata and related African oral traditions including, with Valentin Vydrine, a critical source edition of The Epic of Sumanguru (Brill, 2017) based on an oral epic he recorded in the Republic of Mali.