Westerners’ knowledge of Africa typically includes images of safaris, poverty, and of course, “tribal” religion, with all of its racist connotations of “primitiveness.” Among African religions, Beninese Vodun holds a prominent place as the precursor of Caribbean Vodou and North American Voodoo.
In Ghana, creative culture and the contemporary art sphere is in a period of exponential growth and refiguration. Across Accra and Kumasi, the contemporary creative scene has been growing at an unprecedented rate since 2011–pervading public spaces, transportation infrastructure, historical sites, and online social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In the absence of support structures for the arts, many artists and institutions have begun using urban public spaces as creative venues and substantive mediums for producing and displaying art.
Running through terminal three at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, two thoughts crossed my mind: “I have to make this flight,” and, “This is my McCallister moment.” It was not until I was finally seated on my seven-hour flight to Heathrow that doubt began to creep into my mind. All of the trip anxiety that I had before leaving came rushing back somewhere between hours three and four of the flight.
Black Panther (2018) is one of the highest grossing films in history. That a high-budget, sci-fi, action-hero movie is popular around the world is not a surprise. Yet, a global cinematic hit made by a mostly Black cast and production team, and set in East Africa, is unprecedented. Black Panther and its commercial success are products of and contributors to a growing popularization and even valorization of forms, metaphysics, symbols, and other cultural elements recognizable as “African.”
I knelt on the stiff prayer mat in silence. The keeper of this shrine in southern Togo had asked me to lead prayers and propitiations to the tron (spirits) that morning. I had never before been expected to make formal, public praise to the spirits. I felt unsure and self-conscious. “But I’m Catholic,” I said, lamely attempting to withdraw.
Last summer, I launched the Olosho Ethnobotany project in Narok, Kenya. This community-based project works with local Maasai men and women to document medicinal plant usage.
The 2017 Elliott P. Skinner Book Award recipient Yolanda Covington-Ward is the 2017 Elliott P. Skinner Book Award recipient for her book, Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo, published by Duke University Press. Covington-Ward is an associate professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. In Gesture and Power, she […]