Apr 8, 2011
From staff reports
Ohio University is preparing to welcome the leading voices in African arts and literature as the 37th African Literature Association (ALA) Conference takes place in Athens, April 13-17. This is the first time Ohio University will host the national ALA conference*.
During the week, world-renowned authors and scholars will gather to share knowledge about African literature, film and visual arts—subjects that have long been defined by the limited paradigm of post-colonialism said Ghirmai Negash, associate professor of English and African literature, and the convener of the conference.
African writers and artists have historically often felt obliged to respond to a Western hegemony which marginalized the African experience and knowledge systems, added Ghirmai Negash who began drafting a proposal for the conference in 2008 with the schema aimed at responsibly critiquing and revisiting those constraining premises.
“We have to move from this post-colonial fixation, which always demands our attention to focus on (neo-) colonial affairs in Africa rather than on African affairs in Africa. We need to think more in terms of transnationalizing African local cultures and experiences, and localizing the transnational impulse that is available to us,” said Negash.
Negash, along with Assistant Professor of African Art History Andrea Frohne, and associate Professor of Modern Languages Arthur Hughes organized the conference, which included selecting the theme “African Literature, Visual Arts and Film in Local and Transnational Spaces.”
According to Frohne, the theme was designed to encourage discourse between those engaging with the African arts and literatures.
Negash aims to expand the dialogue regarding a new paradigm in African literature during the course of the conference, as well as encourage students within their own African discourse.
“My goal is to have the participation of young scholars that are interested in African literature, while giving international visibility to Ohio University,” he said.
The conference will kick off April 13 with keynote speaker Haile Gerima, an internationally known Ethiopian filmmaker and professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Other keynote speakers include Moroccan-born novelist Laila Lalami, Nigerian author Sefi Atta, poet and scholar Alamin Mazrui, Eritrean-Canadian artist Dawit Petros, cultural critic J. Michael Dash, and several other prominent scholars and artists.
Gerima will speak on the governmental struggles and witnessed first-hand racism portrayed in his films from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the Baker Ballroom, concluding the first day of ALA events.
There will be 470 presentations within 115 panels, during the course of the conference, which aims to attract members of the University and Athens communities.
“In an environment where we all learn from each other, and that included the presence of the Ohio University community at the conference, we intend to contribute a new body of knowledge to academia,” said Frohne.
The influx of transnational visitors plays back into the selected theme, which encourages the merging of local and transnational thought and experience.
“It is another expression of Africa being everywhere in global civilization, particularly here in the United States and in the Americas,” said Director of African Studies Steve Howard.