‘Africanize’ Oriki Offers: A facilitators P.O.V

A length of gratitude has to be expressed for everyone who has offered their creative inputs to the Africanize Oriki Poetry workshop.

It was a playful room that participants joined on an evening housed in the University of Birmingham’s The Exchange – a venue specifically for communities to come together and offer & receive ideas, located in central Birmingham; where else would be best to kick off our series of Africanize workshops

I shared my experience so far researching the African collection in University of Birmingham’s Research & Cultural Collections (RCC), and my process and emotional journey in seeing most of the 1800 objects, artefacts and artworks – including 500 donated photographs. 

To provide a knowledgeable base for the workshop, Anna Young (RCC’s Objects Curator) walked us through six items (chosen by myself), with these allowing me to present my explorations and areas of focus.  These six items included a set of four photographs, these being from Nigeria Magazine, as well as further photographic work from Collector Marianne Johnson; as well as Thorn Figures from the 1930’s and 1960’s – with these speaking of joy and playfulness. 

The remaining three items were made up of an embroidery cloth, which marked a 100 year celebration of Methodist Christian worship in Ghana, and two energetic pieces of art, by Yusuf Grillo & the father of African modernism, Ben Enwonwu, respectively.

    1. Nigeria Magazine / Edward Duckworth photos x 4 (D0432.111, D0432.12, D0432.122, D0432.113)
    2. Marion Johnson photographs Ghanaian Crafts – (D474-54, D474-43)
    3. Justus Akeredolu – Thorn figures plus later 1930s / 1960s 
    4. 1935 Methodist cloth –  (image attached – D0343) 
    5. Yusuf Grillo – Musicians In Procession  (1960)
    6. Ben Enwonwu – The Dancer (1955)

    Once the space was activated with live Djembe drumming, pre-evaluation questions and most importantly, snacks; and the context of the RCC and its collection presented by Anna Young and Clare Mullet (Head of Research), the space was then handed to the participants to explore their thoughts and feelings towards the collection – with the only further consideration being an encouragement to note down one’s responses in writing.

    There were several activities and prompts that the participants bravely took up and I was thankful to remember a few highlights and lessons: 

    Oriki Offers: 

        • Our ancestors still resonate now. 

        • The hands that crafted instruments & items for practical use, may have done so knowing that they were crafting too for the next generations. 

        • It is good to respect young voices to the same degree you would an elders.

      There were several contributors to the workshop, which featured collaborative engagement with an African collection that had items specific to regions, but a collective story of a powerful continent. The images and memories the poets conjured still ring far and true; demonstrating that the African experience is so alive, nuanced and vast – with the six chosen research objects & art works clearly illustrating this. 

      Three songs listened to whilst writing this: 

        • 4Batz ft. Drake – act ii 
        • J. Cole – False Prophets 
        • Young Thug ft. Gunna – HOT
        Written by Sipho Eric Ndlovu

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