Ghanaians display their fashionable adornment.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The Africa Institute, Sharjah, has announced Global Ghana, the second edition of its country-focused season — an annual initiative exploring one African country or African diaspora community through a range of scholarly and public programmes. Global Ghana is organised in collaboration with leading scholars Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Jean Allman, Carina Ray and Joseph Oduro-Frimpong. It includes a two-part interdisciplinary scholarly conference beginning with Global Ghana: Sites of Departure/Sites of Return held in Sharjah, followed by Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star, held in Ghana. The multidisciplinary programme also includes a film festival, a series of musical performances, a staged theatrical performance and an exhibition showcasing the works of contemporary Ghanaian artists.
The season will be launched with a keynote lecture and press conference in Fall 2021, followed by a musical concert featuring an eclectic mix of popular Ghanaian musicians. The Ghana-focused season aims to critically and creatively engage Ghana’s history and contemporary condition. Pushing beyond conventional narratives that oversimplify the nation’s profound significance to its citizens, continental neighbours and the larger African diaspora, the season seeks to reveal the complex and contested forces that have shaped Ghana, past and present.
Global Ghana: Sites of Departure/Sites of Return Sharjah, Spring 2022, the first part of the two-part programme, will examine the ways in which Ghana has emerged over the last century as a focal point of diasporic engagement beginning with early 20th century ‘Back to Africa’ movements, followed by Pan-Africanism, anticolonial liberation movements, and more recently, with heritage tourism.
One of the focal points of the conference will be the country’s efforts to cultivate and curate diasporic engagement among African-descended people in the diaspora and Ghanaians living abroad through the recent “Year of Return” and “Beyond the Return” campaigns.
The season will push beyond Ghana’s Atlantic world connections to open a wider field of enquiry on Ghana’s relations with the Arab world and examinations of the past, present and future of Afro-Arab relations. Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star, Accra (Ghana), Spring 2022, will explore the multiplicity of meanings that have been and continue to be invested in Ghana as a beacon of African emancipation, African unity and continental innovation.
The programme aims to eschew racially essentialist interpretations of the Black Star in favour of diverse perspectives informed by the country’s complex history — from Ghana’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries, to its place as one of the most significant sites for Afro-Arab solidarity in the 20th century. Historical perspectives will inform the programme’s consideration of how younger generations in Ghana today are reimagining what and who constitutes the Black Star nation and its possible futures through a range of different media, including visual and performing arts. To this end, the two-part scholarly conference will be complemented by a range of musical, theatrical and film performances and an exhibition of contemporary Ghanaian art.
The black star of the Ghanaian national flag is a symbol used to represent the emancipation of Africa and unity against colonialism. It was adopted from the flag of the Black Star Line, a shipping line incorporated by Marcus Garvey, which operated from 1919 to 1922. It is also where the Ghana national football team derive their nickname, the “Black Stars.” Garvey was a Jamaican political activist, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur and orator. Ampofo is Professor of African and Gender Studies at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana (UG). An activist scholar, Ampofo’s areas of interest include African knowledge systems, higher education, race and identity politics, gender relations, masculinities, and popular culture.
Jean Allman is the JH Hexter Professor in the Humanities and Professor of African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where she directs the Center for the Humanities. Her research and published work engages 19th and 20th century African history, with a geographic focus on Ghana. Ray is the H Coplan Chair of Social Sciences and Associate Professor of African and African American Studies at Brandeis University, where she also serves as Director of Faculty Mentoring. Her research focuses on Ghana and its diasporas, while also branching out to include a long-term oral history project documenting the experiences of Cubans who served in Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia. Oduro-Frimpong is a media anthropologist and Director of the Center for African Popular Culture at Ashesi University, Accra.
As part of its African Languages and Translation Program, The Africa Institute has also launched the Global Africa Translation Fellowship. It welcomes applications from across the global South for a grant of up to $5,000 to complete translations of works from the African continent and its diaspora, into English or Arabic.
It is a non-residential fellowship which allows the recipient scholar to complete the work outside of The Africa Institute. The aim of the fellowship is to make important texts in African and African Diaspora studies accessible to wider readership across the world. Selected projects may be retranslations of old, classic texts, or previously untranslated works, collections of poetry, prose or critical theory. The project may be a work-in-progress, or a new project feasible for completion within the timeframe of the grant. Deadline for applications is October 15, 2021. The Africa Institute is an interdisciplinary academic research institute dedicated to the study, research, and documentation of Africa and the African diaspora. Hoor Al Qasimi is the President and Salah M Hassan is the Director of The Africa Institute.
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