WRITER: VITALIS TORWEL
CONTACT: LOIS GRAY
Iowa City IA 52242
Release: Oct. 7, 2002
UI Obermann symposium focuses on African fashion and body arts October
Click on photo for enlargements
UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies presents its 2002 Humanities Symposium,
"The Cultured Body: African Fashion and Body Arts," Oct. 17-20 at
the UI Museum of Art. The event, co-sponsored by International Programs and
the Project for the Advanced Study of Art and Life in Africa, opens at 7 p.
m. on Thursday, Oct. 17 with a keynote address by Joanne Eicher, regents professor
of design, housing and apparel at the University of Minnesota, titled "The
Body and Dress: The Cultured Body in Africa."
Eicher's presentation will look at body and dress in Africa as a complementary
pair as many designers do. She will also review some body and dress fashions
and arts from across the African continent, both traditional and contemporary.
She will follow this by presenting in more detail, two peoples from her research
who have contrasting approaches to body and dress: the Kalabari of Nigeria
and the Somali of the Horn of Africa.
This event, which is free and open to the public, will offer the UI community
and the general public the opportunity to experience cultures from around
Africa through fashion and body arts including fashion design, jewelry, body
painting and other forms of personal adornment.
In addition to funding from the major sponsors, support has also been provided
by the UI Museum of Art, African Studies Program, Global Studies Program,
and the Departments of French and Italian, anthropology, women's studies,
and the Office of the Vice President for Research and External Affairs.
"The goal of this gathering is to bring together an unprecedented array
of scholarship concerning all aspects of African body arts, including traditional
as well as contemporary forms and representing much of sub-Saharan Africa,"
says Sarah Adams, assistant professor of art and art history at the UI.
All of the invited presenters have particular interest in the role of African
body arts in processes of cultural change, both in contemporary and historical
contexts. This emphasis on change, and the uses of body adornment as a tool
for mediating or reacting to change, will lead presenters to address a host
of contemporary issues, including the societal shifts that occur as a result
of economic and political change, the growing presence of mass media, and
tensions between ethnic groups, generations and genders.
In addition, the conference will include scholars whose work focuses on the
influence of African clothing and body arts on Western arts and fashion.
"Here, too, we seek to explore the weighty social issues that underlie
changes in styles and practices, including the colonial relationship of Europe
and Africa, and the use of African forms as 'exotica'," explains Victoria
Rovine, the director of the UI African Studies Program and curator of the
Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the UI Museum of Art.
Highlights of the symposium include lectures and expositions in the following
Re-examining the Traditional: Adornment and Communication; Inside/Outside
Africa: The Travels of People and Adornments; Contemporary Studio Arts and
the Body; Fashion and Invention: Weaving Identities; and Beads, Hair, Jewelry,
"Obermann Humanities Symposia feature UI humanities scholars exchanging
ideas with one another and with distinguished colleagues from other disciplines
and other institutions," notes Jay Semel, Director of the Obermann Center.
"Previous symposia have resulted in important publications on subjects
as diverse as the concept of mind, the avant-garde, genes and self-knowledge,
lyric poetry, and religious philosophy."
The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies is a place and program dedicated
to intellectual interchange. The Center supports collaborative approaches
in order to explore broad fields of knowledge and to investigate complex problems.
For more information about the symposium or a complete program schedule,
or contact Victoria Rovine, 319-353-2468 or Sarah Adams, 319-335-1778.