Research

‘It is not enough to proclaim it, we must put it into practice’: Feminist Discourse and Decolonization in Senegalese Artistic Production

On April 20, 2021, I gave a talk as part of Ohio University Center for International Studies’ Spring Research Colloquium on the intersection of feminist discourse and decolonization in Senegalese women’s artistic production. I focused primarily on four artists: Younousse Seye, Mariama Bâ, Sister Fa, and Mati Diop. I argued that Senegalese women artists have historically worked to decenter the West in their art and offer alternatives to Western frameworks of feminism. One implication of this research, which is a part of my dissertation work, is the tendency for discussions on the politics of art in Senegal to focus more on the work of male artists, such as Ousmane Sembène or Youssou Ndour, while ignoring that of Senegalese women. Given the history of political engagement from Senegalese women artists, this is an oversight that my work seeks to correct.

Younousse Seye, Light bearer, 1971, oil on canvas and collage of cowrie, 171 x 129 cm

17th Annual UMass-Amherst Graduate History Association Conference (2021) Presentation (Panel: “Print Cultures of Colonialism and Political Power”)

On April 10, 2021, I presented a paper entitled “Revolutionary Pasts and Postcolonial Utopias: The Afrofuturist Texts of José Antonio Aponte, Martin Delany, and Abdourahman A. Waberi,” at the UMass-Amherst GHA Conference. This paper originated in a course on Afrofuturism in popular culture, taught Dr. Akil Houston at Ohio University. Using Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’ concept of the “dark fantastic” (2019) and my understanding of Afrofuturism 2.0 (Anderson and Jones, 2016), I examined three texts from the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries which depicted or discussed revolution and the creation of post-colonial utopias. The importance of this research has been to show how African and African Diaspora artists have imagined alternative pasts and futures for Africa and the Afro-Diaspora, particularly in visual art (Aponte) and literature (Delany and Waberi).

30th Annual British Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies Conference (2021) Presentation (Session L, Panel 22)

On February 18, 2021, I presented a facet of my research on decolonization at the British Postcolonial Studies annual conference. Specifically, I examined how “decolonization” has been defined by various intellectuals, artists, and leaders in Africa and the Diaspora from the early twentieth century to the present. I argued that while the process of decolonization has been defined in many ways, there are five broad concerns that the majority of these definitions have: they are concerned with sovereignty, the “colonized mind” (to borrow from Ngugi), culture, gender, and the future. A key conclusion of this work is that decolonization ultimately calls for new forms of governance that represent a break with the colonial and neocolonial past and present. We must continue to critically engage with decolonization if the process is to succeed.

African Studies Association Conference (2020) Presentation (Panel XI-I-9)

On November 21, 2020, I presented part of my Master’s research on the intellectual thought of Thomas Sankara, former President of Burkina Faso (1983-1987), and the Martiniquais theorist Frantz Fanon at the African Studies Association’s annual conference. I argued that Sankara’s ideas relate particularly well to Fanon’s, particularly in their conception of the African Revolution. I concluded that Sankara’s continued popularity calls for a reexamination of his presidency. It is only through studying his time in power that we can better understand more contemporary movements that seek to claim his image.

The Politics of Memorialization in Africa

Poster for the Ohio University Libraries’ Graduate Research Series talk

On November 19, 2020, I presented research on the politics of memorializing Patrice Lumumba & Thomas Sankara in Africa, as part of the Graduate Research Series at Ohio University Libraries. This research began during my undergrad at Miami University, as part of my Honor’s Thesis, and has expanded since I’ve come to OU. A link to the talk can be found here: “Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, and the Politics of Remembrance and Memorialization in Africa”

A critical argument I make: sources that are not the written archive, such as music and other oral sources, can’t be ignored by historians. I also echoed critiques brought by Raul Peck, who investigated the “dark spots” (the gaps) in the colonial archive, pointing to its curation by the former colonizers and the erasure of particular groups or individuals (an argument also made by Marisa Fuentes in “Dispossessed Lives” (2016)). Likewise, Tshibumba Matulu (the Congolese historian-painter, who told the nation’s history through painting) critiqued the Western method of writing history, which often ignored the common person’s point-of-view. Both Peck and Matulu offer new ways to view the archive & discuss how African history is often written from Western viewpoints.

Presentation slide featuring Tshibumba Matulu’s painting Zaïre indépendant

Finally, the critical role of the artist in past & contemporary politics cannot be ignored. I point to the role of bands like l’African Jazz and their song “Indépendance Cha-Cha,” which praised contemporary politicians for their role in the independence movement. In a similar way, artists like Simon Kouka and Keur Gui challenged the Senegalese state in 2012 to assert democracy as part of the Y’en a marre movement.

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