Professor Chérif Keïta, a long-time supporter of the Blog who works at the intersection of religion and politics in Africa recently presented to East Carolina University (ECU) students about the intertwining topics of missionaries, freedom, women and South Africa. A Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at ECU, Professor Keïta aired two of his documentary films, entitled “Cemetery Stories” and “Remembering Nokutela,” which are part of his three-part documentary series on “Missionaries, Freedom, and South Africa: Documenting Religious Roots of the African National Congress (ANC).”
The scholar and filmmaker has been working on the three-part film documentary series for 17 years. Centered around the first president of the ANC, John L. Dube, the series also explores his relationships with his first and often-forgotten wife, Nokutela—whom Keita mentions as a “pioneer woman”—and Dube’s adoptive parents, the Wilcoxes, who were missionaries from Northfield, Minnesota working in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century.
A native of Mali, Professor Keïta has published books and articles on both social and literary problems in contemporary Africa. He teaches Francophone literature of Africa and the Caribbean, as well as advanced languages courses at Carleton College. His special interests include the novel and social evolution in Mali, oral tradition, and the relationship between music, literature and culture in Africa. Professor Keïta presented at the 2016 CIHA Blog conference in South Africa and has written previously for us highlighting John Langalibalele Dube as a path-breaking figure in South African history as well as documenting the Malian musical instrument of Senoufo balafon in a video on friendship, music and spirituality in Mali.
Keita said the opportunity to document the story of the first president of the ANC fell into his lap through “Amadlozi” (spirits of African ancestors). He knew that he was the only one to tell this interconnected family’s story. “I felt as an African I had to put the pieces together…stories sometimes have a way of finding their teller. So I feel that I am a humble instrument of these stories,” Keita said.
ECU was keen to host Professor Keïta and highlighted that an interdisciplinary approach to studying religion can illuminate a broad range of fields from art history, history, and anthropology to political science, economics, sociology, public health and so on. As one member of the ECU faculty mentioned:
“Religion is more than synagogues, mosques and churches. It is about people’s views of the world and how they locate other people and ways of life within them so that you can use religious studies to gain greater insight into any social challenge that we face today.”
We at CIHA Blog also believe that studying and working at the intersection of religion and critical humanitarianism can help to raise important questions about long-standing religious traditions and their relationships to the underpinning values of development work.
Read more about the event here: http://www.theeastcarolinian.com/news/article_93bcb4f4-b2d8-11e7-a9d5-0fedf4f3ef87.html
Featured Image by: Thomas Weybrecht via The East Carolinian