Midway through his keynote address at “Pleasure and the Pleasurable in Africa and the African Diaspora,” Teju Cole checked in with his audience.
“How are we doing on the pleasure?”
The writer and photographer had been DJing his presentation for the past hour with an eclectic compilation of African music, from Naija Jamz to Drake’s One Dance. Audience members were delighted.
— BRITTLE PAPER (@brittlepaper) April 15, 2017
— Jerome Camal (@jscamal) April 15, 2017
His presentation, entitled “My Black Ears: How Listening Made Me African,” explored the music that connected him to his home.
Cole was born in the U.S. to Nigerian parents and spent the first years of his life in Nigeria.
“I’ve been raised by my own ears,” he said. For Cole, listening to Yoruba music “became a point of contact with a language that was rare in Michigan or Massachusetts or New York.”
When asked why he chose to give his presentation in the format of a playlist, Cole replied, “I put a very high personal premium on freedom… so I asked myself, could this be a lecture I gave with the assistance of Spotify?”
Cole was not the only one to tackle an unconventional topic at the three-day conference on pleasure in Africa. Naminata Diabate’s lecture explored neoliberalism and sexuality in Africa, while Adélékè Adéẹ̀kọ́ questioned why the living find pleasure and purpose in funerals.
So this is happening now. The Uni. Of Wisconsin at Madison rounded up a bunch of African scholars to think about the question of pleasure. pic.twitter.com/yfFALO5Cii
— BRITTLE PAPER (@brittlepaper) April 14, 2017
Pleasure and the Pleasurable in Africa and the African Diaspora was hosted by the Department of African Cultural Studies and the African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.