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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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PANEL: Popular culture as Learning Event: Identity Making as a Performative Act in Africa and its Diasporas (Fri, July 8, 4.00-5.45 pm)


‘Faut que ça rappe!’: Musical revitalization, mediations and the politics of performance in the Gabonese rap world (2009‐20)

Alice Aterianus-Owanga, University of Cape Town,

This paper describes the attempt of revitalization of rap music in Gabon between 2009 and 2020, by questioning the technologies and mediations employed for that purpose. It considers how these transformations overlap with a history of complex relationships between music and politics, arguing that the revitalization of the rap world was related to a broader attempt at social healing and reconciliation after a violent political conflict. It stems from a long-term ethnography study conducted in Libreville and the Gabonese diaspora from 2008 to 2016 and on the analysis of two recent rap projects launched in Libreville: ‘Bwiti Gang Cypher’ and ‘Catalogue Challenge’. Through the analysis of these two performances, I highlight how the attempt at revitalization was relying on a complex mix of mediations and technologies, including original hip hop conventions and local healing rituals and how it has allowed for the transformation of divisive conflicts into a cathartic moment of collective listening. This article finally proves the double dimension of musical revitalization, one where music rebirth and social healing overlap, and it shows how the embeddedness of music and politics can be permanently transformed through the agency of social actors who develop a creative play between different technologies and mediations.

Keywords: Gabon; digital technologies; performance; politics; rap; revitalization; social healing

Popular culture as Learning Event: Identity Making as a Performative Act in Africa and its Diasporas

Hassan Ndzovu, Moi University

This panel invites to exploring various processes of learning, knowledge generation and its mediated transmission as a significant process in the formation of identity making in Africa and its Diasporas. We encourage contributions that address knowledge transmission embedded in popular culture, or displayed in popular events like festivals, clubs, competitions, or workshops. We are especially inviting contributions that look at intersections and layers of media practice, especially in poetry, music, film and art works. We do understand identity making in the field of popular culture as a performative act that mediates culture with or without the use of mass media and draws on established aesthetic forms by combining them in multiple ways, thus creating new forms and ways of representation of symbols of identity. We are especially interested in papers that focus on the nexus between the multiplicity of learning events and the formation of identity among different segments of communities in Africa and beyond, thus, highlighting the issues of gender, race, ethnicity, age and class in different settings of popular culture events.

The invited papers engage with the concept of medialities by engaging with media practice and the fusion of profane and religious symbols, thereby addressing one of the following questions: How does artistic performances contribute in the production and diffusion of knowledge among different communities in Africa? In which way does the mediating of symbols play into processes of identity making? How have the performances of arts perpetuated linguistic borrowing among speakers of local languages as evident in the music and film-video production in Africa? What dynamics does the entry of women in the public performances reveal in relation to the view of women’s bodies and voices in the public spaces among Africans?

The Study of ‘ceremonial acts’ in religious life in Senegal: Note on the (socio)religious library of a case of repentance.

Abdourahmane Seck, Université Gaston Berger

In 2014, an eminent academic published a book in Senegal entitled Le Coran et la culture grecque. Shortly after its release, the book is "denounced" by personalities and religious groups who describe it as blasphemous and offensive to the Muslim faith. An important outcry is then organized in the media, against the author of the work. Under pressure, he apologized to the Muslim community of Senegal and the world. This paper will focus less on this action of repentance than on a restitution of the doctrinal references and religious imaginary that were mobilized against the author. It will insist, more precisely, on this dimension of religious imaginaries, by envisaging them as a "popular theology", whose nature and meanings I will try, in broad strokes, to identify. 

Keywords: Repentance, Censorship, Profanity, Ceremonial acts, socioreligious life, Senegal

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