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For the 2007 session of the Campus, the theme that has been selected is: Contemporary African Cultural Productions. It is a theme that is designed to invite deeper reflections on contemporary transformations in African cultural productions. Whether mediated by local contexts of social and economic crises to which cultural workers seek to adapt themselves or changes in technology experienced especially over the last two decades, or methodological innovations in the cultural production milieu itself, African cultural productions have experienced varying degrees of change at a time of immense contradictions in the local and external environments. Local film production has been growing even as the cinema culture appears in many places to be in recession, replaced by video and digital projections that are adapted for home-viewing; local theatre production for projecting plays continues to survive even as national theatres are being privatised in many places; and vibrant experimentations in musical forms are taking place and spurring the revival of local musical production companies but local and global piracy and the lower rungs occupied by Africa in the global marketing chain constitute countervailing forces. Alongside the experimentations taking place in musical production are new dance forms and structures which straddle the purely informal to the formally incorporated. These innovative shifts extend to other performing arts such comedy and poetry. Local painters and cartoonists have also tapped into the prolonged season of ennui of the last two decades and half to generate artistic commentaries of various kinds as have novelists and essayists but the local consumption of their output has also been highly uneven. The local fashion industry has been experiencing some growth and fashion designers have creatively cast themselves as purveyors of art and beauty in ways which are very innovative but like the musical and film making activities taking place, their full potentiality is stymied by various global asymmetries.
Without doubt, the artistic productions taking place in contemporary Africa come in a variety of forms, including photography and other hybrid forms of expression – such as street art and graffiti - that have added up to contribute to the richness of the texture of livelihood on the continent in spite of economic difficulties and social dislocations. Experimentations with form have gone hand-in-hand with shifts in content and the social values underpinning them. African social researchers are challenged to situate these cultural productions in the overall context of processes of livelihood construction and reconstruction on the continent, doing so in ways which go beyond anecdotal observations to provide fresh, carefully marshalled evidence and analytic perspectives. Participants will be encouraged to explore the history, economics, politics, sociology, geography, gender angles and generational dimensions of contemporary artistic production in Africa. Such a variety of entry points into the theme of the Campus should also ensure that the 2007 session turns out, like the ones before it, to be a truly multi/interdisciplinary forum that also structures a dialogue between the humanities and the social sciences, as well as between researchers and practitioners. In addition to the mapping of the contours of the contemporary cultural production process, participants in the Campus will be encouraged to share comparative insights across genre and countries and capture changes occurring in forms of delivery, shifts in the composition of audiences, the influences associated with refraction of the global into local contexts, and the efforts aimed at infusing the local into the global. With regard to the latter, it would be interesting to assess the place of the African cultural industry in a global context dominated by transnational producers who have been consolidating themselves through various mergers and acquisitions aimed at cementing their power.
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