In January, CHCI held its first Africa Humanities Workshop in Addis Ababa, hosted by Elizabeth Giorgis, Associate Professor of Art History, Criticism and Theory in the College of Performing and Visual Art and the Center for African Studies at Addis Ababa University. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Africa Humanities Workshops are the result of a larger project, initiated by CHCI in 2014, to learn about and from the humanities in Africa. Recognizing the challenges facing many African institutions of higher learning, the Workshops were conceived not only to narrow the training gap, but also to support the impressive work of the many talented graduate students and early career scholars across the African continent. More than an instructional venture, the Africa Humanities Workshops were designed to be venues where emerging scholars could meet and form collaborative relationships with one another and the larger academic community. These Workshops serve as an important piece in our on-going effort to connect emerging humanities scholars in Africa with the leaders in global humanities research, knowing that both sides of this exchange will be transformed for the better in the process.
The workshop in Addis Ababa set out with the ambitious plan to bring together artists, art commentators, and humanists to re-think Africa as a concept, to create new analytical categories, and to develop methodological approaches to research in the humanities. Over two weeks, 35 participants from 9 African countries attended thematic seminars and lectures, and professional development workshops about academic research, writing, publishing, and instruction. An early seminar and workshop led by Julie Mehretu, a world-renowned Ethiopia-born visual artist, explored the relationship between cultural identity and art production. Mshaï Mwangola‘s two-day seminar on performance in and of African culture. The Addis workshop concluded with Simon Gikandi‘s two-day seminar focused on the theoretical problems surrounding the concept and discourse of “decolonization.” Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Catarina Gomes, and James Ogude–longstanding partners in CHCI’s humanities projects in Africa–led sessions on the theoretical and methodological challenges of research and instruction in the university. CHCI also supported attendance at the Ethiopian National Theater and guided tours through museums around Addis. A full program, with descriptions of each seminar, can be found here.