African Voices festival celebrates African and African-American culture
Centre College will present an African Voices festival that celebrates African and African-American culture from Jan. 14 to 18, 2011. Scholars, musicians, dancers and authors will give lectures and performances as part of the festival’s activities.
African Voices events include an evening of music from Mali by drummer Yaya Diallo on Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Weisiger Theatre. Diallo, a musician and author from Mali, performs both traditional and popular West African Kanza music.
Diallo will also talk and perform at a program titled “The Healing Drum: African Wisdom and Teaching” on Jan. 15 at 2:30 p.m. in Vahlkamp Theatre. A public reception will precede the talk at 2:00 p.m.
Prize-winning Trinidadian author Brenda Flanagan will take part in two events for the festival. She will give a talk titled “Africa in African-American Literature” on Jan. 14 at 4:00 p.m. in the Ewen Room. On Jan. 15 at 6:00 p.m. in the Evans-Lively room there will be a traditional African dinner followed by a reading by Flanagan titled “Reading Black Women’s Faces.” The dinner will feature authentic African recipes including groundnut stew with garnishes, rice and fried plantains.
Known internationally for dramatic presentations of her stories and poems, Flanagan was born in Trinidad in 1949, the 12th of 14 children in an impoverished family. In 1967 she left Trinidad for the United States, working initially as a domestic servant. Flanagan went on to study at the University of Michigan and became a professional author. She teaches creative writing and Caribbean and African-American Literatures at Davidson College.
Noted banjo player and instructor at Centre Randy Wilson will give a talk/performance titled “Ring the Banjo: from Africa to Appalachia” on Jan. 15 at 4:00 p.m. in Vahlkamp Theatre.
Jean Ritchie, a legendary folk singer and dulcimer player who received the National Heritage Award, referred to Wilson as the “mountain Pied Piper for kids one to 99.” He has performed extensively at music and storytelling festivals, including the Great American Dulcimer Festival, the Kentucky Folklife Festival, and the Smithsonian Appalachian Festival and is the folk arts director at the Hindman Settlement School in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
William H. Turner, Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Studies and Regional Ambassador at Berea College, will give a talk titled “African Americans in Appalachia” on Jan. 18 at 4:30 p.m. in Vahlkamp Theatre.
In 2009, the Appalachian Studies Association honored Turner for a lifetime of service to the Appalachian region with its Cratis D. Williams/James S. Brown Service Award— the highest honor bestowed by the organization, given annually to an individual who has made exemplary contributions to Appalachia. The Christian Appalachian Project recognized Turner as its Citizen of the Year in 1994. In 2006, he was inducted as a Notre Dame Black Exemplar; and, in 2007, he was honored with the State of Kentucky’s Dr. Martin Luther King Citizen’s Award. Turner was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in September 2007.
African Voices will be capped off with a West African Drum & Dance performance by Bi-Okoto on January 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Weisiger Theatre.
Established in 1994, Bi-Okoto is a non-profit multicultural arts education performing organization that presents a repertoire of more than 90 authentic traditional dances, music, dance dramas, operas and new contemporary works from Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Congo, Kenya and South Africa. They wish to preserve traditional African drum and dance heritage and promote cultural understanding by educating audiences of all ages about African countries through language, music and movement for a better appreciation of diversity.
African Voices is a combined effort between Laurence Bitensky, Charles T. Hazelrigg Associate Professor of Music, and the Global Mellon Fellows Committee, which is exploring the creation of an African/African-American Studies minor at Centre College. Guest performers will be visiting Bitensky’s First Year Studies course “Heard Around the World: A Global Look at Music Making and Culture.”
The Global Mellon Fellows pursuing the African/African-American studies minor are professors Andrea Abrams, Richard Bradshaw, Nathan Link and Ian Wilson.
Nathan Link, Assistant Professor of Music at Centre, comments, “We’ve traveled to institutions large and small throughout the country, meeting with leaders of African and African-American Studies programs and strengthening our understandings of the fields and investigating potential models for our program here.”
“African Voices presents a wonderful opportunity to share our work with the Centre community,” says Link.