The University Museum's Outreach Lecture Program

The University Museum's Outreach Lecture Program

Lectures on Africa

Elizabeth Neaves Straw, Coordinator

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania funds the Outreach Lecture Program of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Its mission is to make the resources of the Museum available throughout the library system of the state of Pennsylvania. The 1994-95 lecture topics for adults include: Nubia; Egypt's Rival in Africa; Dances of the Old Mali Empire; Hair Itage: The Art of African-American Hair Sculpting; the History and Mystery of Belly Dance; Kente Cloth: A Window into Ghana; Moving Perspectives on Dance; and Tunisia: Crossroads of Culture; To Visit the African Continent.

The 1994-95 lecture topics for children include: Myths and Tales of Ancient Egypt; Dance in Egypt as a Celebration of Daily Life; Life in Ancient Egypt; Building Positive Self-Images in Children through African Dance; the Continent of the Drum; and Daily Life of the Ancient Egyptians.

Ancient Nubia: Egypt's Rival in Africa
Explore the fascinating history of the Ancient Nubians through this illustrated lecture. Based on the University of Pennsylvania Museum exhibition: Ancient Nubia: Egypt's Rival in Africa, this lecture provides an introduction to 3,000 years of Nubian Cultural developments and shows how archaeologists have used artifacts found in ancient cemeteries and villages to reconstruct Nubian ways of life.

Slides for this lecture will focus on objects included in the exhibit Ancient Nubia: Egypt's Rival in Africa to illustrate the art and lifestyles of the Nubians who inhabited the Nile Valley to the South of Egypt. Although parts or Nubia were, at times, dominated by Egypt politically, Nubians developed imposing kingdoms of their own. Through the use of artifacts ranging in date from 3,000 B.C. to A.D. 600, this lecture will allow the listener to witness the ebb and flow of indigenous cultural developments, including the establishment of a Nubian monarchy that ruled Egypt as the Twenty-fifth Dynasty.

Stacie Olson

Dances of the Old Mali Empire
Mali has a long and rich history, which reached a glorious peak during medieval times when the empire of Mali controlled strategic trade routes across the Sahara Desert. This talk will explore the techniques and philosophies behind a variety of classical dances from ancient Mali; dances such as the wolosodong, mandiani, linjin, saba and lamba. Using discussion, demonstration and video, Ms. Brown will explain the meaning of these beautiful dances, the healing powers of traditional musical instruments that accompany them and how some of these features have been transformed in Africa-America.

Ms. Benita Brown

Hair Itage: The Art of African-American Hair Sculpting
African sculpture in wood and natural fibers is famous throughout the world. Hair is another important sculptural medium in Africa. African societies developed a unique sculptural tradition of weaving hair into complex and intricate designs of braids, twists and coils which expressed the social and cultural identity of the wearer. American slaves brought this from West Africa and over the centuries elaborated it into the unique art form known collectively as African-American hair sculpture. Using slides, videos and demonstrations, master braiders Katherine Jones and Yvette Smalls will trace the historical development of African-American hair sculpture. Ms. Smalls will concentrate on the creative and artistic aspects, Ms. Jones will focus more on the professional side of hair sculpture in the United States, and compare African-American and West African hair sculpture. (This lecture is available either in a one-hour format or as three separate sessions.)

Ms. Katherine Jones and Ms. Yvette Smalls

The History and Mystery of Belly Dance
This general style of female solo interpretive dance is known and appreciated all over the Arab world including Northern Africa. There is no formal choreography but instead a variety of characteristic movements with which to interpret the music and show mastery of the rhythm. In the villages of northern Africa most women dance as a social activity, at weddings for example, in all-female groups. The character of this sensual dance style is different in the big cities; particularly in Egypt where the dance has reached it most highly developed form. Top dancers achieve the status of movie stars because of the prominence of the entertainment industry. Through discussion, slides and demonstration , Ms. Siegel, as "Habiba" will trace the long history of this dance. Attend this fascinating lecture and find out for yourself the skills needed for authentic belly dance.

Barbara Siegel, "Habiba"

Kente Cloth: A Window into Ghana
Kente, the distinctive and beautiful cloth of the Asante people in Ghana, is worn for many different types of formal occasions. These days it is worn at funerals and weddings and other important ceremonies, as well as by people attending the king's court. Using demonstrations and a video made in Ghana, this lecture will focus on the history, construction and symbolism of Kente and will explore how recent interest in the cloth by African-Americans has revitalized and modernized the traditional art.

Ms. Tahira Amatullah

Moving Perspectives on Dance
From ceremonial to street dance, enjoy a celebration of the strength and diversity of African and African-American dance styles! Using examples from parts of east and west Africa, this talk will trace the African elements of established dances in the U.S., ranging from traditional African-American dances such as gospel, jazz and blues to more recent techniques such as breakdance and hip-hop. Special attention will be paid to understanding the meaning of dance movements, the links between dance and music and the role of dance as an integral part of the community's social fabric.

Dr. Patricia Reid-Merrit

Tunisia: Crossroads of Culture
Tunisia has a richly mixed cultural heritage that includes Phoenician, Berber, Roman, Early Christian and Islamic elements. Today it is an extremely modern and moderate Islamic state, which is host to the Arab League. Women's suffrage came immediately after independence and education is a high priority for both girls and boys. At the same time, Tunisians also have a high regard for their traditions and complex history. Join Ms. Siegel for this wonderful tour and slide show about Tunisia.

Barbara Siegel, "Habiba"

To Visit the African Continent
Attention all would-be explorers, tourists and researchers! Before packing your bags for Africa come to this presentation about the experiences of first time travelers to the modern African continent. Drawing on examples from Egypt, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Senegal and Togo, some highlights of this lecture will include the major conceptions and misconceptions about Africa today, cultural variations, the problem of cultural shock, "searching for roots," and how to avoid the ugly American syndrome.

Dr. Patricia Reid-Merrit

The Continent of the Drum
Unlike western music, where the drum usually takes a backseat, most African music has a drum as its centerpiece. The drum has such a special role in community life that many African peoples see it as a part of link between them and their creator. This presentation will focus on the "sekere," a handheld drum from the Yoruba People of Nigeria. Using slides, video and pulsating demonstrations, Ms. Iyabunmi will explain how the sekere is made, the materials used, the special skills needed to play it well, and the meaning of traditional and modern Sekere music.

Ms. Omomola Iyabunmi


Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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