Events Reminder from the Centre of African Studies, University of London,
November/December 2015
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Centre of African Studies Upcoming events

The English-everywhere agenda in education in a highly multilingual Cameroon: Towards a recipe for disaster?
23rd November | 5.15 pm - 7 pm | Room 4429
SOAS, University of London

Cameroon is one of the most multilingual countries in the world. With 286 local languages daily used as the main tools of communication by the majority of its population, a basic expectation would be to see at least some of these languages used for the education of children in schools and in the various realms of written exchange for intergenerational transmission of knowledge, information and values. But the history of languages-in-education in Cameroon is marked by the very absence of Cameroonian languages from the mainstream education system.

With the English-everywhere agenda, prescribed by the Ministry of Education from the early 2000s in the Francophone provinces of Cameroon, English has been forcefully imposed all the way from the early years of primary education through to university - in a country which does not have any native speaking pupils in its classrooms, nor any significant number of trained English language teachers to implement such an agenda.

This seminar will discuss the recent developments of the English-everywhere agenda in the school education system and critically present some of the pedagogic and operational challenges faced by this contentious agenda.

Chair: Dr Carli Coetzee (SOAS)
Speaker: Dr Seraphin Kamdem (SOAS)

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Translanguaging as an alternative pedagogical strategy for implementing multilingual education in South African universities
26th November 2015| 1 pm - 2.30 pm | Room 392
SOAS, University of London

The Language Policy for Higher Education (LPHE) adopted by the South African government in 2002 requires universities to implement multilingualism in teaching and learning programmes to ensure equity of access and success for all students (Department of Education, 2002). While it is easier to implement multilingualism in the institutional environment, the implementation of multilingualism in teaching and learning programmes poses theoretical, pedagogical and practical challenges. Pedagogically, there are still no well established models for implementing multilingual education in South African higher education. Recently, translanguaging has been proposed by various scholars (e.g. Williams, 1996, 2002, 2003; Lewis, Jones & Baker, 2012; Canagarajah, 2011; Creese & Blackledge, 2010; Hornberger & Link 2012;  Garcia, 2009, 2013; Gracia & Wei, 2014) as a better alternative pedagogic strategy for implementing multilingual education in multilingual contexts. The aim of this paper is to discuss this strategy and its implementation in South African universities, with special reference to the University of Cape Town. The presentation will give examples of translanguaging strategies adopted for the multilingual concept literacy tutorials which are being piloted by the Multilingual Education Project in different disciplines.

Chair: Friederike Luepke (SOAS)
Speaker: Mbulungeni Madiba (University of Cape Town)

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Erotic Music and Female ‘Renegade’ Artistes: A Critical Study of Sexuality and Social Positioning
30 November| 5.15 pm - 7 pm | Room 4429
Erotic music is percussion music, with foreign musical accompaniment, practised by the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria for the enjoyment of the urban underclass and the wealthy elite. Its indigenous variety known as efe was popular and its practitioners comprised both men and women. On the contrary, the contemporary Yoruba male religious world, through its foreign religions, prohibits women from performing erotic music but hypocritically tolerates men. The study examines the agency of the erotic music of two prominent women ‘renegade’ artistes Iyaladuke Abolodefeeloju and Saint Janet in the contemporary Yoruba society governed by foreign religious strictures with a view to establishing their music as performance of power.  Using womanist and agency theories to study selected song albums of the artistes, it is observed that the erotic music of the ‘renegade’ artistes is a domain of aesthetic revolution, women empowerment and subversion of the male religious cultural hegemony.

Chair: Akin Oyetade (SOAS)
Speaker: Dr Adebayo Mosobolaje (Obafemi Awolowo University)

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Agricultural Potential in the Sudans: Past Experience and future outlook
7th December | 5.15 pm - 7 pm | Room 4429
SOAS, University of London

The prospects for Sudan and South Sudan to become major agricultural producers have been deliberated for over a century. Modern schemes began in the Anglo-Egyptian period. Most have failed or had limited success.
Experts from the field will discuss the failures and successes of these projects and evaluate the pros and cons of the continued pursuit of modern intensive crop production.
Both countries intend to build more dams along the Nile and to attract foreign producers through competitive land lease and tax breaks.
The panelists will highlight the likely social, environmental and economic impacts of these policies.

Speakers: Maurits Ertsen (Delft University of Technology, NL)
Mohamed Al Nour Adam (Sudanese Marine Biologist)
Chair: Mawan Muortat (SSSUK)

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Upcoming art events
Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa
From 14th Nov 2015 until 22nd Jan 2016  | Peltz Gallery - Birkbeck, University of London

Curated by Annie E. Coombes, Professor of Material and Visual Culture, Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa focuses on the struggle for self-representation by those affected by the virus during the worst period of AIDS denialism under former President Thabo Mbeki from 1999 to 2003. It explores the way fine art and the process of print-making, painting and other creative practices produced effective therapeutic treatments for HIV/AIDS sufferers and enabled proactive memory work to be performed as a legacy for bereaved families and children. 

The exhibition includes photo-documentary work aimed at alerting the international community, fine artists’ responses to the pandemic and initiatives from within the hardest hit communities in South Africa itself. Many of these initiatives have since been adapted to other medical and mental health contexts globally: intimate Memory Boxes commemorating the lives and loves of lost family members as a personal legacy for those left behind; print and poster workshops promoting safe sex practices; human scale Body Maps from Khayelitsha tracing the trajectory of the virus and individuals’ personal strategies for living with AIDS; large-scale tapestries with imagery borrowed from Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ transposed to the Eastern Cape, transforming the historic iconography to foreground the experience of fighting for antiretrovirals and coping with the day to day management of living with HIV in a seriously deprived economic context.

Related events:

Conference Women and HIV/AIDS in South Africa: Medicine, Art, Activism 7 December 2015, 9am - 5.30pm. Keynes Library, Birkbeck, University of London, School of Arts.

Public lecture on HIV/AIDS in South Africa today, 7 December 2015 at 6pm. Edwin Cameron, Justice of the South African Constitutional Court. Clore Management Centre (Torrington Square), room B01.

Artists' talks with the artists from Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa 8 December 2015 at 10am. Peltz Gallery.

Book your tickets through Eventbrite:


MASK virtual exhibition series 

All I know I imagined
11 November 2015 -11 February 2016


MASK begins a series of virtual exhibitions to showcase our artists, and to raise money for our pioneering education programmes in Kenya

Our first show is dedicated to Churchill Ongere, 22, a political science university student who 'builds' his collages out of old newspapers, embossed paper and payment receipts. Growing up 'around art' (his father was an artist) from the early age Churchill has been expressing himself through poetry, singing and painting.   We discovered Churchill through our annual 
MASK Prize.  

Discover and buy Churchill's work.  50% of the sales will go to the artist, and 50% - to our charity MASK.  This will help us to continue our creativity education programmes in Kenya.  According to surveys, 90% of business chief executives say that recruiting employees with creative skills is a primary concern, but 80% of them have difficulty finding such employees. Government policies fail to foster young people's creative skills and, thus, not adequately preparing them for employment.  Help us to foster young people's creative skills (the ability to identify problems and generate new solutions).  Read more

Let us know if you would like to buy the original artworks or limited edition signed prints (prices start from £125).  Prices don't include costs of packing and postage.

We would be grateful for your donation, however small or large.  Thank you.

MASK  School for Creativity and Innovation (formerly Mobile Art School in Kenya)

Past events - Report
Conference African Film and Social Change, University of Westminster

The last 7 & 8 of November took place the Conference African Film and Social Change organised by the Africa Media Centre, University of Westminster and supported by the Royal African Society within the Film Africa festival. 
It has been the seventh edition of these series of conferences that throughout the years, have addressed issues such as feminism, democracy or social change, how these are depicted in film and how film helps to reach, sensitize and transform mainly the African societies but also the Diasporic communities and how Africa is represented in the Global. This year, the conference has brought together scholars from Nigeria, Namibia, Ghana, South Africa, Italy, Spain and UK, who have broadly illustrated how the African film industry is contributing to achieve social and economic progression within the continent. 

The film’s role in the processes of social change in Africa has been vastly overlooked. Film cultures are changing and film is not just an entertaining device but a tool to showcase and reflect on current struggles for social justice, social activism, civic engagement, civic dialogue, community building, social capital, community development and cultural vitality as the organisers have acknowledged.
To expose this new endeavour of film culture in Africa, the conference has been outlined in several panels that have tackled issues such as Gender, Politics, Violence, Sexuality and Stereotyping; Evolving African Film Institutional Practices and Potential for Social Change, Film and Changing Realities in Africa, Evolving African Film Cultures and Social Change or Film Regulation, Changing Formats and Co-Creation in Africa. Throughout the panels, scholars addressed of how black masculinity is generated in South African cinema, how film challenges homophobes societies in Senegal, how the Film and Video Censorship board operates in Nigeria, how video is increasingly occupying the posts in the social networks, how film and video can function as a healer in situations of conflict and how participative film festivals can help to create community and sensitise the population in the outskirts of Dakar.

The conference also had two key speakers, paramount  film directors, who use film to generate social conscience: the Nigerian-born based in Paris, Newton I. Aduaka, winner of the Best Film award at the FESPACO Festival in 2007 for his film Ezra, and Tunde Kelani, Nigerian independent filmmaker who, with more than forty years of experience, considers himself a story teller who uses comedy and satire to promote the Nigerian rich cultural heritage, and dismantling stereotypes. They both explained how they find inspiration in the reality of the Nigerian society and its struggles, to construct new narratives within their films that challenge the established ones.

Raquel Villar-Pérez
MA in Critical Media and Cultural Studies/African Studies (SOAS, University of London)

Photo by Angela Jimu

J PeelProfessor J D Y Peel 

JDY Peel, FBA, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology with reference to Africa in the University of London, has died after a long battle with melanoma shortly before his 74th birthday.

Born in November 1941 in Dumfries, he was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and Balliol (1959-63) where he won first class honours in finals ofLiterae Humaniores, and LSE (1963-66) where he wrote his doctorate on Nigerian independent churches. His first academic post was at the University of Nottingham, and then he held positions at LSE, Ife (Nigeria), Liverpool, before moving to SOAS in 1989, retiring in 2007.

He published widely, in development studies, sociological theory, and diverse aspects of African religion, including religious change, conversion and gender. His strength was to combine history, social anthropology and sociology. He was a beautiful stylist, and incapable of writing an unintelligible sentence. His thrust was generally Weberian, insisting that religion could not be reduced to material or class interests.

The jewel in his crown will undoubtedly be judged his trilogy on Yoruba religious change. The first was Aladura: a Religious Movement among the Yoruba (OUP 1968), virtually the first study to take African independent (or non-mission) churches seriously and thus creating considerable debate; indeed, it was in reviewing this book that his friend Robin Horton first formulated his ‘intellectualist theory’ of African religion (that religion in Africa is concerned with explanation, prediction and control of this-worldly events, a worldview which tends to persist even after ‘conversion’ to a world religion like Christianity or Islam).

In the second, Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba (Indiana UP, 2000), he argued that it was through the encounter between evangelical Protestant missionaries and the Yoruba, at a time when the great majority were still ‘pagan’, that modern Yoruba identity was first formed. The book was based on missionary archives of the period 1845-1912, although giving primary agency to the African pastors and teachers who became the founders of the modern Yoruba intelligentsia. The unique religious dynamics there, since Islam and Christianity reached the Yoruba about the same time and have had almost equal success and coexist remarkably amicably, enabled him to plot the diverse appeal of each of the world religions. This influential study deservedly won both the Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and the Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association of the USA.

The third of the trilogy was completed just before his death and is to be published later this month: Christianity, Islam and the Orisa: Comparative Studies of Three Religions in Interaction and Transformation (University of California, 2015). Here, as the title indicates, he traces the interaction and mutual transformation of the three religions, right up to the present day with its proliferation of Pentecostal churches and the arrival ofsalafism. This book has a markedly more theoretical component, developing a notion of tradition that allows the recognition of the distinctiveness of each great religion (in contrast to others), without committing oneself to the idea that any particular element or component of it, even if widespread or seen as peculiarly central to it, is actually essential to it. This allows for the full ‘fuzziness’ of religious traditions, and the diverse ways in which people recognize themselves as belonging to them. Nevertheless, religions do not develop in just any old direction. No, the tradition provides a heavy ‘steer’ in a religion’s constant interplay with contemporary issues.

In all these works, his love of Nigeria was palpable and recognized by Nigerians; it gave him great satisfaction to be invited in May 2014 to deliver the key lecture at the celebration of the 85th birthday of his friend Professor Ade Ajayi, doyen of Nigerian historians and former Vice Chancellor of Ibadan, an occasion graced by so many Nigerian luminaries.

Besides his own many books, articles and reviews, he edited The Journal of Development Studies (1972-73), Africa: Journal of the International African Institute(1979-86) and from 1986 until his death the IAI’s monograph series, the International African Library. Editorial duties he took very seriously, and manuscripts submitted to theLibrary received pages of encouraging suggestions to give the series the quality it enjoys.

He received numerous distinctions; election to the British Academy (1991), external assessor for professorial appointments in numerous universities, prizes (not least both the Herskovits and Amaury Talbot awards twice, the other winner being his Ijeshas and Nigerians: the Incorporation of a Yoruba Kingdom 1890s-1970s in 1984), and numerous university lectureships (the Marrett, Frazer and Winchester lectures at Oxford alone). He readily accepted the duties that went with honours, serving as President of the African Studies Association (1996-98), a vice President of the British Academy (1999-2000), on HEFCE and ESRC committees, chairman of the IAI Trustees (2005 till his death) and as a member of the panel of judges of the Herskovits Award (2005-08).


His contribution to SOAS life was wide-ranging, as Richard Rathbone recounts below. But listing his achievements does not capture his human qualities. He will be remembered for his personal warmth. I can personally attest to this. I first came to SOAS as a research fellow in a project of John’s. This meant not only guidance but friendship. During that fellowship, every week that I was in London, we would have lunch at a restaurant near Russell Square, occasions that were not only great fun but an education in themselves. It also meant support. Later in an early round of cuts, my post was actually abolished; John wasn’t having that, and waded in on my behalf (he could play rough when he wanted to) and had the decision reversed.

He will be remembered for his enjoyment of all aspects of academic life. (That remains true although he made no secret that he was never reconciled to the restructuring of SOAS from departments into three faculties, views he was prepared to share with anyone.) In a recent email sending me a draft chapter from his new book, he remarked: ‘I enjoyed writing this chapter the most. Particularly I enjoyed the polemical pedantry of refuting [name suppressed: PG] in the long footnote on page ten. You’re too nice to enjoy this sort of point scoring’. That was typical: facetiously gratuitous compliment (which he well knew was not true), gleeful chuckle at his own mischievousness, and a self-deprecating self-presentation as a kind of academic street-fighter. Needless to say, his disagreement was expressed in totally appropriate language; the scholar in question could only be flattered by the close reading and serious attention he had been given.

Even in his most scholarly writing his sense of humour was evident. For example, in one most important work, he explained that when Yoruba claimed their god was ‘unique’, this did not mean they were monotheists. Such claims had the same logical status as those of ‘some deluded Manchester United fan chanting his club was the one and only’. (John consistently supported Liverpool.)

His friendships were wide. It was not only on weekends that students, colleagues and friends were invited to his home where his cooking rivalled his warm, inclusive, stimulating conversation. He was something of an authority on the natural history of Britain, and till very near the end his preferred weekend activity was to take a train to some rather remote spot, to embark on a long walk, lunching at a pub, often visiting parish churches. He was a regular attender at Evensong at St Michael’s, Highgate, from which he drew considerable strength (in one email he remarked: ‘I think Evensong is the best and most characteristic Anglican service’). His interests were wide: on one visit, I couldn’t help noticing that the reading matter in the bathroom was The Historiesof Herodotus. For many years he had been quietly working away on a guide to French cathedrals (alas unfinished), highlighting the artistic, architectural and historical features of most interest to British visitors. He was devoted to his wife Anne, and in his retirement spent lengthy stays in Liberia, even throughout the Ebola crisis, where Anne was working for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). He circulated to friends delightful ‘Letters from Liberia’ in which he recounted their activities, with a sharp eye comparing and contrasting what he had experienced elsewhere in Africa.  

The end came suddenly. At the news of the failure of treatment, he was (as he remarked in his last note to me), ‘not over-unhappy or even distressed, more with a sense of divine acceptance’. He died at peace, surrounded by wife and sons Tim, David and Franko, who meant so much to him, along with his six grandchildren. A wonderful human being, and an academic of the first rank, whose studies of religious change in Africa are unlikely to be surpassed.

Paul Gifford*

J.D.Y (John) Peel; a personal memoir.

John Peel was already widely known and an admired figure in the world-wide African Studies community well before he left Liverpool in 1989. Thus his arrival in Bloomsbury was widely welcomed not only in SOAS but also by the extensive membership of the University of London’s inter-collegiate Centre for African Studies. Many of us already knew him well not least because of his lively involvement in the ASAUK, IAI and other ‘learned societies’; even more of us knew his scholarly work. While that London community was already stuffed to the rafters with big names, pioneers in the field, John was an internationally respected rising star, a big-hitter of a new generation. Accordingly his acceptance of a chair in social anthropology at SOAS felt a bit like a coup. It was a brilliant appointment.

Although John always had a very clear notion of where his ideas were leading him and a lifelong commitment to the regular publication of highly original, imaginatively researched and beautifully written work, he had an equally clear notion of what collegiality and scholarly leadership involved. He never used research and writing as an excuse for avoiding the other necessary elements of academic life. He took teaching extremely seriously, preparing every class with time-consuming care and ensuring that what he shared in class was always up-to-date and exciting. He regarded his teaching timetable as sacrosanct, always resisting any temptation to postpone classes or re-schedule supervisions. His respect as well as affection for those he taught was always apparent to his colleagues as well as his students. His outstanding scholarship attracted outstanding students and he gave them time and understanding as well as the benefit of his considerable learning.

John was driven by a powerful, somewhat old-fashioned sense of duty derived in part from his faith, in part from his upbringing. Lesser people might have ducked administrative burdens in the first couple of years of a new appointment but John felt strongly that academic leadership, the protection of good scholars and their scholarship and the nurturing of new talent, required something more than the occasional bouts of unavoidable grudging effort. John accepted the role of Dean of undergraduate studies very early in his SOAS career. It was for SOAS a financially terrifying time and he, and I as Dean of postgraduate studies, took on the urgent task of rationalising a higgledy-piggledy degree system and its hydra-headed administrative structure which had both evolved in gentler times but which were uneconomic and vulnerable to criticism in a new age of external scrutiny.

As we worked long hours together on all of this, even surviving the potentially divisive situation of sharing a (unusually tolerant) secretary, we got to know one another very well. This experience taught me that John’s sense of duty arose out of a perceived need to serve others; for him SOAS was not just an institution but, rather, a collection of creative human beings who he chose to serve. This and his enviable capacity to allot time so accurately as to be able to pursue, in parallel, most of his research and teaching agendas, made him a remarkably effective administrator. But I also learnt that little of this could be managed without toughness. John did not suffer fools gladly, did not smile at irrational opposition and often followed the dictum of Jowett, the 19thC master of his old Oxford college “get it done and let them howl.” While humour and a delight in absurdity leavened so much of John’s conversation, beneath it all was not just a fine mind but also a rather stern sense of rectitude which he shared with some of those pioneers of Christianity in Africa his work brought to life. He was a lovely man and that very rare thing, a thoroughly decent man.

Richard Rathbone**

*Paul Gifford came to SOAS in 1992 as Leverhulme Research Fellow in the ‘Civil Society in Africa’ project directed by John Peel and Adrian Hastings (University of Leeds). He remained in the Department of the Study of Religions, becoming Professor of African Christianity in 2004, and Emeritus Professor in 2009.

**From 1969 to 2003 Richard Rathbone taught in the SOAS History Department in which he remains Emeritus Professor and Professorial Research Associate. He was Chairman of the Centre for African Studies from 1985-1990 and SOAS's Dean of Postgraduate Studies 1991-1995. 

The funeral is held on Friday 20 November 2015 at 1:45pm at St Michael's in Highgate Village. There will be a buffet and drinks afterwards in the adjoining church hall.

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