Dreaming of Djembes in Chambana: Midwest Mandeng 2016

Image of the flyer advertising Midwest Mandeng 2016.

Flyer advertising Midwest Mandeng 2016.

Every fall, for one weekend, some of the most renowned West African drummers and dancers come to Champaign-Urbana for a full weekend of workshops, demonstrations, community-building, and general merriment. The annual festival, called Midwest Mandeng, was first held in 2014 and is organized by a dedicated group of volunteers including me, Mara Thacker, the South Asian Studies Librarian at the International and Area Studies (IAS) Library. A promotional video produced for the first Midwest Mandeng in 2014 explains what it’s all about:

This year, the festival will be October 7th, 8th, and 9th on the University of Illinois campus and downtown Urbana. Be sure to check the full schedule to see all the details on locations and timings.

The IAS Library and the Center for Global Studies are getting in on the action this year by co-sponsoring a special performance with master djembefola, Bolokada Conde, one of the most celebrated master drummers in the world.  Originally from Guinea, West Africa, Conde was the lead soloist of Les Percussions de Guinée, a group sponsored by the Guinean government that presents traditional music and dance, especially from the Guinean highlands. For over a decade, he has taught workshops worldwide to beginning and advanced students. While he currently lives in South Carolina, he taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a visiting professor from 2008-2011, leading Mande drumming, rhythms, and songs.

Bolokada plays djembe at a demonstration at the Urbana Free Library at Midwest Mandeng 2015.

Bolokada plays djembe at a demonstration at the Urbana Free Library at Midwest Mandeng 2015.

On Friday, October 7, 2016, from 4:00-5:00 p.m., Bolokada will visit the IAS Library to share his stories and experiences touring and performing all over the world, and showcase some of the Malinke rhythms that he has mastered over the years. This event is free and open to the public.

If you feel inspired by the event, check out some of the drum and dance workshops held in the studio rehearsal space in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. All of the workshops are open to all experience levels and drums can be borrowed free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Check out the event website for more information, or contact Mara Thacker at midwestmandeng@gmail.com.

To find out more about West African drumming and dancing, the IAS Library and the Music and Performing Arts Library have a few options for you. Check out some of our visiting artist’s, Bolokada Conde’s, recordings in CD format: Morowaya, Sankaran, and Rhythm Manding.

Bolokada Conde's "Rhythm Manding" CD.

Bolokada Conde’s “Rhythm Manding” CD.

For visuals to accompany the audio, YouTube has a number of recordings available of Guinea’s national dance company, Les Ballets Africains. Also, some of the company’s amazing past productions are on on YouTube. One particularly inspiring piece is a clip of the troupe performing the rhythm dundunba, which is the dance of the strong man and also one of the de facto party dances in celebrations in Guinea.

There will be a community dundunba party as part of Midwest Mandeng where you can try out some dance moves or hear the rhythm in person. Check out the Facebook event page and join in on the fun!

If you want to get meta, check out George Worlasi Kwasi Dor’s 2014 book, West African Drumming and Dance in North American Universities: An Ethnomusicological Perspective. There is also a fascinating thesis on “Performance, Politics, and Identity in African Dance Communities in the United States” written in 2012 by Sarah Sandri at the University of Oregon which is freely available online.

We hope to see you in IAS on the 7th for Bolokada Conde’s free performance!

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“The Fairer Sex” Writes

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What writers would you highlight to commemorate Women’s History Month? Comment below!

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Image Source: suggestive celine (via Flickr)

March is Women’s History Month and an appropriate time to highlight some of the women’s voices that represent world literature. After all,

  • American Hillary Clinton, who is an author of five books, is running for the U.S. presidency,
  • Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is an author of five books, has a TED Talk that opens our courses concerned with social justice,
  • and Pakistani Malala Yousafzai, author of one book, continues to fight for the equal education of girls and boys.

Check out these literary works from across the globe that engage discourses of women’s and gender rights in ways that are frequently subversive, occasionally confrontational, and always powerful.

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Mahasweta Devi. Image Source: TopNews

Draupadi” by Mahasweta Devi (1978)

Tags: India, South Asia, Bengali, short story

In a poor, post-colonial town in India, rumor has it that an infamous young woman, “Dopdi,” who has yet to reach the age of 30, has become a menace to local authorities. Fighting for labor rights and attacking officials without warning, she presents a dangerous local figure. Yet no one can identify her with any certainty. While the police have laid traps to draw her out of hiding in the forest, Dopdi continues to evade capture. In the end, what is meant to be Dopdi’s undoing invigorates her spirit and renders her an even more powerful threat. The best reading of this story is dependent on minimal research into the South Asian mythical epic of the Mahabharata. Themes of gender, sexual violence, and classism are strong threads in this short and powerful work. To continue the conversation addressing sexual violence as a world phenomenon and its prevalence in South Asia, attend the April 5th evening screening of India’s Daughter at the Spurlock Museum.

More Like This: Gayatri Spivak’s essay Can the Subaltern Speak? (India and postcolonial nations), most any title by Jhumpa Lahiri (India & the USA)

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Gayatri Spivak. Image Source: Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung on Flickr

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Jhumpa Lahiri. Image Source: Il Circollo del lettori on Flickr

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (1988)

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Tsitsi Dangarembga. Image Source: Pan American Center on Flickr

Tags: Zimbabwe, Africa, English, novel

In this novel, “Tambu” is a young girl living in a country then known as Rhodesia in the 1960s. Because she is female, her ambition for academic study is not well supported by her community—that is, until her older brother suddenly dies and someone must take on a role of leadership and status to save her family from economic ruin. As Tambu is introduced to a new world of privilege, knowledge, and experience, readers examine what she leaves behind and what these sacrifices mean in shaping a new, hybrid identity. This bildungsroman succeeds in taking on the ambitious goal of engaging discourses of gender, colonialism, and competing cultures in a work deemed one of the most important to have come out of Africa. If you are a current University of Illinois student and interested in these themes and this novel in particular, consider taking a course taught by Dr. Manisha Babb. She teaches a cross-listed course called Modern African Literature offered in the English, African Studies, Comparative World Literature, and French departments, respectively as ENG 470, AFST 410, CW 410, and FR 410.

More Like This: Mariama Bâ’s Une si longue lettre (Senegal), Maria Nsué’s Ekomo (Equatorial Guinea)

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Mariama Bâ. Image Source: Wikipedia

A photo of Maria Nsue. Image Source: escritores.org

Maria Nsué. Image Source: escritores.org

Emails from Scheherazad (2003) by Mohja Kahf

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Mohja Kahf. Image Source: Aslan Media on Flickr

Tags: Syria, the Middle Eastern Diaspora, poetry

Do you remember Scheherazad(e)? She was the sole wife and queen to King Shahryar who eluded death by telling tales within tales that never ended? The stories of Aladdin, Sinbad, and Ali Baba all stem from this famous text. Mohja Kahf, a poet of Syrian descent, revisits this legacy in her compilation of poems. Emails from Scheherazad. Her bi-cultural identity informs and enriches her work, as seen in the poem “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears.” In it she describes being the product of both a Middle Eastern and an American culture. She regularly contradicts the widely held notion that being a Muslim and a woman is synonymous with being oppressed and her poems allude to globally recognizable female characters who face adversity—Eve, Malinche, Hagar, and more—suggesting a shared history and resilience. To get more connected to the local Muslim community on University campus, check out the United Muslims and Minority Advocates (UMMA) on Facebook.

More Like This: Arabian Nights/One Thousand and One Nights, Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves and Hymens (Egypt & the USA), Ghada Abdel Aal’s I Want to Get Married (Egypt)

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Mona Eltahawy. Image Source: Aspen Institute (via Flickr)

 

A photo of Ghada Abdel Aal. Image Source Christopher Rose on Flickr

Ghada Abdel Aal. Image Source: Christopher Rose (via Flickr)

Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1983)

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Barbara Streisand as Yentl. Image Source: Ziegfeld Girl on Flickr

Tags: Poland & the Jewish Diaspora, Yiddish, short story

This text is actually written by a man. Because it inherently engages questions of genders and their roles in society, and also features a female protagonist, it remains relevant to global literature that tackles issues concerning women’s lives. The main character in this work, Yentl, has been spoiled by her father as a child by being allowed to study sacred rabbinical texts, an activity strictly reserved for men in her community. When her father dies, not wanting to abandon her religious learning, she makes a plan to hide her sex and continue on her path of erudition. However, there are some unanticipated expectations associated with her new role as a male. The cinematic adaptation of Yentl starring Barbara Streisand is inextricably linked to this literary work. If you’re an enrolled student and interested in this area, seek out the Program in Jewish Culture & Society for more about works written in Yiddish and on the Jewish diaspora. A selection of the program’s courses can be found on the program’s website.

More Like This: Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank, Deborah Feldman’s Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots 

A photo of Anne Frank. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Anne Frank. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

A photo of Deborah Feldman. Image Source: Zimbio

Deborah Feldman. Image Source: Zimbio

Kinsey Report” by Rosario Castellanos

An image of Rosario Castellanos. Image Source: Milagros Mata Gil on Flickr

Rosario Castellanos. Image Source: Milagros Mata Gil (via Flickr)

Tags: Mexico, Latin America, Spanish, poetry

The title of this poem refers to American sexologist Alfred Kinsey, whose published works on human sexual behavior became well known in the mid to late 20th century. While this poem makes for a quick read, it remains in the reader’s memory indefinitely. It features six different feminine voices that expound on the condition of their gender. One woman reports on her marriage which has become a hollow and juridical union of self-sacrifice and anxiety; another fears being deemed a prude for lack of sexual activity or a whore for any carnal intimacy engaged outside of marriage; a third wistfully awaits a Prince Charming who will whisk her away from any care she might have. All of the voices problematize notions of female gender and show how societal expectations and traditional roles can, to say the very least, be limiting. For ways to find more Latin American literature, see this lib guide.

More Like This: All titles by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Mexico), all titles by Clarice Lispector (Brazil), Sabina Berman’s (Mexico) Entre Villa y una mujer desnuda

A drawing of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Image Source: Wikipedia

A drawing of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Image Source: Wikipedia

A photo of Clarice Lispector. Image source: ana.claudia on Flickr

Clarice Lispector. Image source: ana.claudia (via Flickr)

Happy reading, sharing, and happy Women’s History Month! Let us know what additional authors you would add to this conversation. Also drop by the Main Library’s Marshall Gallery (first floor, east side of the building ) to see an exhibit curated by Leanna Barcelona highlighting women’s history at the University of Illinois. If you want even more titles, visit the Undergraduate Library’s post to commemorate Women’s History Month last year.

For more posts like these, make sure to like our Facebook page, where we share a new Glocal Notes article every week of the semester.

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What’s in a Flag? A Brief Introduction to Vexillology

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Photo Credit: Sami Sarkis

If you followed the news this past summer, you likely noticed that there was much talk of flags and their significance. This was especially the case for the State of South Carolina as legislation was passed to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the capitol in Columbia. This came after a horrific mass killing took place at the hands of a white supremacist who had previously been photographed brandishing not only the Confederate battle flag, but also those of apartheid-era Rhodesia and South Africa. Much has since been written about the implications of flags in this context.

The potent symbolism attached to a flag’s history may be manifested in various and complex ways – ways that may also change over time. The study of these issues is known as vexillology (from Latin vexillum;flag, military ensign, banner”), a term coined by American flag historian and expert Whitney Smith in 1958.

Even before it is made official, considerations of a flag’s design are often highly politicized, as seen in the current case of New Zealand’s various proposals to change their national flag. In the case of the Republic of Cabo Verde, a Portuguese-speaking West African island nation also known in English as Cape Verde, the changes from one national flag to another have heralded the various changes to the nation’s administration and political configuration over the last fifty years.

Here is the flag that was proposed for the territory during the 20th century while it was still under Portuguese rule (until 1975), but was never fully instituted due to various historical instabilities:

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Proposed colonial Cape Verdean flag (pre-1975)

We can see the use of the ancient Portuguese flag – itself a conglomeration of various symbols dating back to both the Age of Discovery (c.1300-1600) and the Middle Ages (c.1100-1300), with a unique coat of arms for the colony of Cabo Verde in the bottom fly (“right corner” in vexillological terms). The ship symbolizes the Portuguese arrival at the previously uninhabited islands in the mid-to-late 15th century and the islands’ subsequent importance as a depot in triangular trade. The green sky and waves refer to not only the sea, of course, but also to the second word in Cabo Verde’s name, which means “green” in Portuguese.

Next we have Cabo Verde’s first national flag after it had declared independence from Portugal on July 5th, 1975 and was still united with Guinea-Bissau (formerly Portuguese Guinea) on the African mainland:

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First Cape Verdean national flag, 1975-1992

Clearly some major changes in policy had taken place. In fact, since those fighting for independence from Portugal – some since the 1960s – were socialists allied with the Soviet bloc under the aegis of PAIGC, the “African Party for the Independence of [Portuguese] Guinea and Cabo Verde,”  which is today’s left-center PAICV party, it is not surprising that their eventual victory would be reflected in the fledgling nation’s new flag. The red, yellow, and green bars are traditional African colors symbolizing the struggle for freedom, mineral wealth, and the earth, respectively. But in this context, red can also denote socialism. The black star is a symbol of African/black solidarity that can also be found in the flags of Ghana and Guinea-Bissau as well as within the liberation symbolism of Jamaican Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey (1887-1940). The ears of corn flanking the star stand for the importance of agriculture and traditional rural communities. The clam shell at the corn’s base hints at the great significance of the sea to the archipelagic nation.

When full democracy was obtained in Cabo Verde in 1990 with the admission of a second political party, the Movimento para a Democracia (MpD; “Movement for Democracy”), a new flag was called for. Thus, in 1992, the following was unfurled for the first time:

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Current flag of the Republic of Cabo Verde

As we can see, almost all of the socialist-leaning, Afrocentric symbolism is gone. In its place is a scheme at least partially influenced by the red, white, and blue of the American flag, which hints at the fact that Cabo Verde and the USA maintain close and friendly relations to this day. The ten yellow stars arranged in a circle represent the ten islands of the Cape Verdean archipelago, though the islands’ actual relative position forms more of a flying-V shape. The blue represents the ever-present sea surrounding the islands. The red still stands for struggle/sacrifice as in the previous flag and the white bands stand for hope and/or peace, as in many other flags of the world. The intention with this particular change in design stems from Cabo Verde’s policies during the last 25 years of promoting homegrown unity and identity while simultaneously fostering links with a wide range of foreign partners such as Cuba, China, various member-states of the European Union, and the United States.

So what’s in a flag? A whole lot, once you stop to take a closer look.

Glossary of some vexillological terms:

  • charge – any part of a flag that features a design in the foreground
  • canton – a distinct rectangular area marked off in a flag’s corner
  • hoist – the left side, where a flag would be attached to a pole
  • fly – the right side, where a flag might flutter in the wind
  • saltire – an X shape, as in the Union Jack of the United Kingdom
  • coat of arms – a more complex design incorporating elements from heraldry, usually traceable back to a specific dynastic family

For more on this topic, check out these links as well as print titles from the University of Illinois Library and its affiliates:

Gideon, Richard, Ed. 2003-2015. American Vexillum Magazine. Self-published.

Shaw, Caroline, Compiler. World Bibliographical Series: Cape Verde. Oxford: Clio Press. (IAS Reference/Non-circulating).

Smith, Whitney. 1975. Flags Through the Ages and Across the WorldNew York: McGraw Hill.

Smith, Whitney. 2001. Flag Lore of All NationsBrookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.

The Urbana Free Library. 2015. “Flag of Earth.” Blogs. 11 August 2015. Online: Accessed 16 September 2015.

Znamierowski, Alfred. 2010. The World Encyclopedia of Flags: The Definitive Guide to International Standards, Banners, and EnsignsLondon: Southwater.

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“Black Flag Boricuas: Anarchism, Antiauthoritarianism, and the Left in Puerto Rico, 1897 – 1921”

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“The black flag of anarchism . . . expresses one’s solidarity with those most abused by the state, by capital, and by religion. . . . ‘Boricua’ . . . [is] more about a collective identity of resistance – in short, a distinct form of antiauthoritarianism rooted in the island people’s collective nationality against colonialism” (Shaffer, 15 &17). “Black Flag Boricuas”

When people think of anarchism, the most common generalizations consist of youth destroying private property, disregard for authority, and a world burning in chaos. Yet, in spite of these misunderstandings, the general public forgets that anarchism stemmed from the struggles of marginalized communities throughout the world.  In “Black Flag Boricuas: Anarchism, Antiauthoritarianism, and the Left in Puerto Rico, 1897 – 1921,” by Kirwin R. Shaffer, the author explores the role of anarchism in the Caribbean and its interrelationship with other Puerto Ricans and other activist groups in Cuba, Florida, and New York. This book also serves to unite readers under a black flag that evokes the humanity of people affected by authoritarian forms of government.

Spanish colonialism, U.S. invasion, poor living conditions and low wages are some of the ingredients that led to the dissemination of radical consciousness and change in Puerto Rico. Anarchist thought was facilitated by the arrival of Spanish migrant workers to the island in the late 19th century. Their message resonated with the tobacco industries of Caguas, Bayamon, and San Juan, Puerto Rico which had “most of the leading anarchist writers and activists” (Shaffer, 3). Places like Havana, Tampa, and New York were also known tobacco cities; destinations that provided Puerto Rican migrants with more opportunities for income and for networking and mobilizing with fellow comrades. In order to build solidarity with and learn from transnational anarchists, anarchists in the island began to publish newspapers and write articles for American and Cuban periodicals “which helped to internationalize the movement wherever they went and to discuss international topics” (Shaffer, 5). These are just a few of the examples of dissidence that represent Puerto Ricans’ struggle for autonomy from foreign and domestic exploitation and social injustice.

“Black Flag Boricuas” provides a breadth of information and is a good introduction to the history of anarchism in the late 19th and early 20th century Puerto Rico.

If you are interested in learning more about anarchism around the world, you can check out “Zen Anarchism: The Egalitarian Dharma of Uchiyama Gudo” from the International and Area Studies Library. It is a collection of translated essays by a Zen Buddhist priest and anarcho-socialist activist that provide an interesting insight into Buddhist history in Japan.

Also, the main library has a book titled “Anarchism & The Mexican Working Class, 1860 – 1931” which looks at the impact of anarchism on the Mexican working class. Moreover, the main library has a collection of English periodicals, “Anarchy,” that focus on issues of unemployment, racism, gender discrimination, poverty, militarization, and other related issues within Europe and beyond. For something less broad, you might also be interested in learning about anarcho-feminism from “Anarcho-Feminism: From Siren and Black Rose, Two Statements.”

Finally, another recommended book which you can check out through I-Share is “Eyes to the South: French Anarchists and Algeria,” about Algerian and French anarchists during the Algerian revolution. Furthermore, check out one of our oldest bibliographies on this subject “Bibliographie de l’anarchie” by Max Nettalu.

Happy Reading & Power to the Reader.

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