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Conference Topic Is Black Diaspora

November 8, 2005 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Fist-and-Heel Performance Group choreographer Reggie Wilson – whose dances are rooted in a 19th century slave tradition in which worshippers clapped, stomped and body-slapped rhythms after their drums were taken from them – will be among the featured speakers and performers at a two-day symposium Nov. 11 and 12 on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

Wilson will join established and emerging performance scholars of the Black Diaspora in “Black Diaspora Performance: A Global Circuitry of Creativity, Communication and Citizenship.” Sponsored by Northwestern’s Institute for Diaspora Studies, the conference will explore contemporary Black Diaspora issues through discussion and performance emphasizing the exchange of ideas between emerging and established scholars.

Free and open to the public, events on Friday (Nov. 11) will take place from 3 to 8:30 p.m. in Room 108 of Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road. Saturday (Nov. 12) events will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Hagstrum Room of University Hall, 1970 Campus Drive, and from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Hyer-Wallis Theatre in the Theatre and Interpretation Center, 1949 Campus Drive.

The symposium will include performances from Chicago, Atlanta and Washington DC-based artist/scholars and papers by doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows from Northwestern, University of Chicago, University of West Indies and other institutions.

In addition to Wilson, Friday evening’s keynote discussion will feature University of North Carolina Professor D. Soyini Madison, a performance artist and scholar whose works explore tensions between ancient rites, religious beliefs, gender politics and human rights in West Africa, and Northwestern Professor Sandra Richards, director of African-American, Caribbean and African plays at universities here and in Nigeria. Richards’ current work focuses on issues relating to cultural tourism to slave sites throughout what is known as the Black Atlantic.

The symposium’s Saturday afternoon performance segment will include an excerpt from Mkawasi Mcharo’s one-act poetic play about the experiences of two immigrants awaiting deportation; an excerpt from “Bag Ladies: carrying a diaspora colored black” by Chicago-based dance and multimedia ensemble ThickRoutes Performance Collage; “Its About Small Things,” a screen media performance by Torkwase Dyson; and performance by Northwestern Ph.D. candidate Lori Baptista about the unpredictable circulation of history, food, music and dance across Portuguese-speaking African countries, Brazil and the American South.

A collaboration of Northwestern’s African American Studies Department and Program of African Studies, the Institute for Diaspora Studies undertakes interdisciplinary and cross-regional explorations of African-descended populations. For registration or other information, call (773) 547-6596 or e-mail isis@northwestern.edu.

Topics: Campus Life