Exhibition at the British Library. West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song

An exhibition of literature and music – from the great African empires of the Middle Ages to the cultural dynamism of West Africa today Fri 16 Oct 2015 – Tue 16 Feb 2016 Fascinating stories from the region’s 17 nations show how West Africans have harnessed the power of words to build societies, drive political movements, sustain religious belief and fight injustice. Beautiful manuscripts, historic film and sound recordings, books, photographs, and woven and printed textiles offer a unique insight into a profound and engaging literary culture with centuries-old written heritage existing alongside ancient oral traditions. Hear the myth of the founding of ancient Mali in recorded performance. See the influence of religion through colourful fabric and the saddlebag Qur’an. Celebrate writers and artists including Africa’s first Nobel prize winner, Wole Soyinka, and internationally acclaimed musician and human rights activist Fela Kuti. More information here

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A Syrian Love Story: narration of a subject or subjects of narration?

The critically acclaimed documentary, A Syrian Love Story, by Sean McAllister, follows a couple of ‘refugees’ from Syria, and their children, through their journey to France. The film-maker’s choice of a personal standpoint to show their story provides multidimensional insights into their lives and the emotional and intellectual toll of displacement. But while this inspired film challenges stereotypes usually endured by refugees, Camille Jacob, PhD student and member of the Francophone Africa cluster, wonders about the narrative it offers.   Sean McAllister’s documentary of the relationship between a Syrian and a Palestinian activist through the Arab Springs, revolution, civil war and displacement is timely and pertinent. However, its main strength lies in moving away from the one-dimensional show of the atrocities of the civil war and focusing purely on the family. Amer and Raghda met and fell in love in prison; after their release they married and had children. Raghda wrote a book about their story, which landed her back into prison. As filming starts, Amer is anxiously trying to bring her home, and hopes that accepting to be filmed will hasten the process. We intermittently follow the trials of the family for five years as they move fifteen times, […]

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