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UGA to mark 25th anniversary of African studies with conference, cultural and family events

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia will mark the 25th anniversary of its African Studies Institute with two weeks of events beginning Nov. 1. The celebration will include an international conference, theatre performances, film screenings, lectures and other events designed to showcase the richness and diversity of the continent.

“The political, economic and cultural importance of Africa continues to grow, which makes this an especially opportune time for faculty, staff and students as well as community members to learn more about the continent and its people,” said Akinloye Ojo, director of the UGA African Studies Institute and associate professor of comparative literature and African studies in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

The 25th anniversary celebration will include an international conference Nov. 8-10 in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries. The conference, titled “Africa and its Diaspora: Expressions of Indigenous and Local Knowledge,” will encourage and document the ongoing conversation on the paradoxical dynamics of preserving the unique identity of African indigenous and local knowledge in an increasingly globalized and westernized world. The conference will offer a forum for intensive exchanges between scholars, researchers and technocrats from various disciplines who study Africa, the African Diaspora, the U.S. and other parts of the globe.

The conference also will bring several ambassadors from African nations—including Cote D’Ivoire, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Zimbabwe—together to discuss the African continent and the African diaspora on Nov. 8 at 9 a.m. in Masters Hall of the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. Renowned poet and scholar Tanure Ojaide, professor of Africana studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, will deliver the keynote address on Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. in the auditorium of the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries.

The two-week 25th anniversary celebration kicks off Nov. 1 at the University Theatre with an 8 p.m. performance of “The Darker Face of the Earth,” a play by former Poet Laureate Rita Dove that examines the reality of slavery. The play, directed by Freda Scott Giles, an associate professor of theatre, continues its run through Nov. 11. The play and many other anniversary events also are part of UGA’s Spotlight on the Arts festival, to be held Nov. 3-11.

Additional 25th anniversary events, all of which are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted, are listed below.

Africa Family Day will be held Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon at the State Botanical Garden and will include storytelling, dance and music, plus special stations featuring African plants, instruments and snacks. The event is cosponsored by the Georgia Museum of Art and the ASI with the participation of the African Student Union.
Taste of Africa: African Cuisine will be held Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. in the reception hall of the Tate Student Center and will include sharing and sampling of African cuisine hosted by the African Student Union.
Africa in Cinema will be held Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. in room 150 of the Miller Learning Center with a screening of “Has God Forsaken Africa?” and discussions led by Karim Traore, associate professor of comparative literature and African studies, and Rachel Gabara, associate professor of romance languages.
Live, Learn and Travel in Africa: Study Abroad Fair will be held in conjunction with the Office of International Education’s study abroad event Nov. 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Tate Student Center plaza.
Peace Corps in Africa: 50 years of Service will be held Nov. 7 at 11 a.m. in room 480 of the Tate Student Center and will include a panel discussion by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
APERO Africana Lecture: The Disproportionate Impact of Climate Change on the African-American Community will be held Nov. 7 at noon in room 407 of Memorial Hall and will be given by J. Marshall Shepherd, a UGA professor of geography and president-elect of the American Meteorological Society, in conjunction with the UGA Institute for African American Studies.
Artful Conversation: 7 Steps by Radcliffe Bailey will be held Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. in the Georgia Museum of Art galleries. Carissa DiCindio, curator of education, will lead an in-depth discussion of the Atlanta artist’s work.
ASI Past Directors Forum will be held Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries auditorium and will feature the seven UGA faculty members who have served as directors of the program over the last 25 years.
Johnstone Lecture: “People and Plants: Aloes, Ecosystem Health and Livelihoods in Kenya” will be held Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Gardenside Room at the botanical garden and will be given by Elizabeth King, an assistant professor in the Odum School of Ecology and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.
African Languages Cultural Awareness Event will be held Nov. 15 at 11 a.m. in the Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center and will feature performances by students in various African languages classes.

What is now the African Studies Institute began as a faculty interest group in 1987. At that time, African studies was a fledgling academic discipline, particularly in the U.S. The African Studies Program, which became the African Studies Institute in 2001, made UGA a leader in studying and sharing knowledge from the societies and cultures of Africa.

The ASI is housed in the Franklin College and has 60 affiliated faculty members from nearly every school and college at UGA. Its faculty conducts research and provides instruction, including study abroad and service-learning opportunities, to undergraduates as well as graduate students from diverse majors. The ASI offers an undergraduate certificate in African studies and an undergraduate minor in African studies. In addition, the institute supports the minor in African languages and literatures and the program in African languages and cultures, both of which are housed in the department of comparative literature.

“The last 25 years of African studies programming has been quite beneficial to UGA students, and we look forward to continuing that tradition,” Ojo said. “In addition to providing a better understanding of historical developments, our programming has provided the realization, especially through study abroad, that Africa provides one of the best venues to study the impact that interactions between humans and nature, particularly with regard to urbanization, deforestation, soil erosion, climate change and wildlife conservation, amongst other things, are having on the continent.”

To learn more about the African Studies Institute and the 25th anniversary celebration, see

Events celebrating the 25th anniversary of African studies programming at UGA are supported in part by funds from the President’s Venture Fund through the generous gifts of the UGA Partners; State-of-the-Art Conference Funding from the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost; the Franklin College; the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; the Office of International Education; the Office of Institutional Diversity; the School of Social Work; the Graduate School; and the Division of Biological Sciences.