Monday, July 11, 2011

From the Toyin Falola Annual Conference, University of Ibadan

Panelists: Professor Gloria Chuku, Univ. of Maryland (c), Greg Mbajiorgu, Univ. of Nigeria (r)
Photo: Chika Okeke-Agulu
So, last week--as my earlier post on the spectacle of Oloolu indicated--I was at the University of Ibadan to attend the innuagural Toyin Falola Annual Conference. In many ways it was (and is) a most laudable project organized by the Ibadan Cultural Studies Group, a collective of scholars mostly based at the University, and led by Professor Ademola Dasylva. If anyone deserved to be so honored with an annual international conference named after him, it has to be Toyin Falola who, in spite of his prodigious scholarly productivity--as a historian--has been so supportive of scholars of all shades in the academy. I tend to think of him as a generous patron who uses his tremendous intellectual resources to help younger scholars overwhelmed by the complicated maze of the academic industry; and to recover and consolidate the work of older academics who have not quite received the kind of recognition due them. And he does this with the kind of enthusiasm you associate with inspired youths!  So, Dasylva and his group have done well to establish this annual conference, which I am sure will grow from strength to strength.

Professor Femi Osofisan (r), and his friend during evening performance. Photo: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Performance group during the closing evening. Photo: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Having said that, there were a number of hiccups with regards to the actual organization of the conference. Most of it has to do with Nigeria--my impossible home country where things everyone takes for granted elsewhere, such as power supply which was epileptic and decent, proper accommodation that was scandalously expensive (note: the University of Ibadan Hotels). But also, many of the presenters in the printed conference program strangely did not show up, even especially participants from other Nigerian universities who could not claim to have been denied visas or discouraged by embassy travel advisories (in the wake of the Bokom Haram bombings in the north!). This made the panel schedules so confusing, because the organizers had to compound several panels.  But also organizers also displayed a lot of generousity, such as when they allowed late arriving presenters to join later panels. My hope though is that future hosts of the conference--it is designed to be peripathetic: next year the Center for Black African Arts and Culture and the University of Lagos will host, and it might go to South Africa after, and so on--will be more discerning in terms of paper selections, as there was quite a few really poor quality presentations for a conference in honor of such an esteemed scholar and academic.

"Eyo" masquerade performance. Photo: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Falola (c) with performance group. Photo: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Still, I thank Dasylva and his Ibadan Cultural Studies Group for making this conference happen in Ibadan. It is for people like them that one hopes that some day soon, the academic culture that was decimated during the dictatorships of the previous decades will rebound. Some day soon.

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