African History, Arts, Testament Of Creativity Of Its People-Don

The Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS) University of Lagos has emphasized the need to recognize African studies, its rebranding, as well as projecting the continent to the world.

Prof. Muyiwa Falaiye, Director of the institute stated this at a two-day symposium organised recently in collaboration with the University of Exeter in the U.K.

The theme of the symposium is: Atlantica; Seen from Lagos, African Re-groundings.

The symposium was held at the University of Lagos on June 25 and June 26.

According to the don, Africa is rich in its products, artifacts and history meant to be showcased to the showcased and celebrated to the world.

The expert in African and Diapora Studies noted that the history of Africa was a testament of the strength and creativity of its people.

“The significance of this event is that it is the very first collaboration with the University of Exeter, with a view of projecting what we represent as Africans.

“It is also part of our process of engaging Africans about the importance and significance of recognizing and rebranding African studies.

“It is in essence, meant to induce in us, the idea that Africans have products, artifacts, arts and ofcourse history, that we should understand and project forward.

“So, it is part of the collaboration of the IADS with the university of Exeter in the United Kingdom and indeed it is very significant because we do know that this is just the beginning of such collaboration,” the professor of African Socio-Political Philosophy said.

He further noted that with the just-concluded symposium, the institute had once again, cemented its place as the fastest growing intellectual hub on the continent for discourses about Africa and its diasporas.

The event, which attracted global academics, artists and advocates, marked a significant moment in re-imagining Africa’s place in the world.

In her key note address, Ruth Simbao, National Research Foundation SARChI Chair in Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa, said that the theme of the symposium, the Atlantica platform, Seen from Lagos, which was the first, is oriented toward the future in its exploration of solutions and routes through barriers, found in the contemporary academy.

Simbao, also a professor in Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa added that it all began with the fear identified by Prof Falaiye in his 2017 essay “Is African Studies Afraid of African Philosophy?”

“If even specialised branches of Area Studies devoted to the study of Africa are either ignorant of, or uneasy in dealing with, theories, concepts and methods, drawn from African knowledge systems, what hope is there for the broader fields of the Humanities and the Social Sciences?

“While the subsequent years since the publication of Falaiye’s article have vibrantly trailed the rise of a “decolonial turn,” particularly in institutions in the Global North, there is scant evidence that academic disciplines have shown any appetite to find new ways to think from or with modes of thought from the Global South.

“Equally noteworthy, is the inadequacy of mutually conceived intentional conversations bridging knowledge spaces of the Global South.

“Though unacknowledged, this is partly a function of the difficulties entailed in both unlearning existing modes of perceiving the world, and navigating through various entanglements of subjectivities, alongside the hard graft needed in opening one’s mind to understanding through other languages, concepts and modes of being.

“This platform directly addresses such deficits through the provision of case studies, which it hopes will inspire others to see the expected awakening which can arrive through approaches to knowledge creation which find inspiration in specific schools of thinking or praxis from the African continent,” she stated.

Speaking further, she noted that this would encourage the submission of philosophical studies which were able to engage prevalent pedagogies, explore and situate the value of indigenous epistemologies.

According to her, this will not necessarily divorce them from broader currents within their academic fields, though naming and enumerating their specific utility.

She added that a second originating position was in the study of art, both through forms of cultural practice and in the discipline of the history of arts, as it had been reconstrued by Africans and especially some Nigerian writers.

“Looking beyond Africa toward other exemplars, we are able to see the manner in which fundamental notions of time, history and aesthetics have been upended in quite general, as well as scholarly, fashions in locales such as Australia, where indigenous modes of artistic production have induced paradigmatic changes in thought.

“Similar tendencies can also be seen in specialised fields of study in Islamic art, in which the specificity of forms of Muslim spiritual enlightenment are prized above the emplacement of works of art within Western frames of knowledge.

“Returning to Nigeria, it is arguable that one of the greatest conceptual gains which has emerged through the creation of indigenous forms of modernism by groups such as the Nsukka School has been their imagination of cultural production, as a marriage of forms.

“Far from precluding deeper understandings of indigenous knowledge, fine art presents opportunities to disseminate such understandings in new fashions, to both local and international audiences.

“Relatedly, the degree to which an easy interchange across the study and making of art evinced at UNILAG in the work of Peju Layiwola and others, reflects a positive belief in the ideal of conceptual and embodied forms of knowledge, making working in tandem.

“We therefore invite contributions to this event which may take the form of academic papers or artistic, curatorial or other forms of intervention.

“Our overarching goal is to move our fields forward so that no one should be afraid of African thought today, while some of its manifold facets might begin to be better understood at and through this symposium.

“Seen from Lagos is the first in a new series of Atlantica platforms and events, building toward a pan-Atlantic biennial of contemporary art and critical enquiry. Working with artists, writers and communities, Atlantica aims to re-examine the multiple histories and ‘historical presents’ of the Atlantic from diverse contemporary perspectives, challenging the supposedly ‘universal’ knowledge system, that inherently privileges a Eurocentric worldview,” she said.

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