Symposium to examine ways of honoring ancestors in Africa and the diaspora


The African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will host its annual spring symposium on the topic of honoring the departed in Africa and beyond.

Scheduled for April 6-7, 2018, the multidisciplinary symposium will feature examples of arts and actions used by cultures to mourn and celebrate ancestors.

Henry Drewal, symposium organizer and Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies, asked all speakers to perform their presentations.

“Honoring the departed is a universal human activity,” Drewal said. “I am interested not just in the visual arts, but in how we perform these arts in music, dance, and rituals.”

A number of alumni will return to campus to present at the two-day symposium. Eric Adjetey Anang, third-generation coffin-maker from Ghana and former Windgate Artist in Residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will showcase his designer creations and the one in the Chazen Museum of Art.

“I want to highlight issues that are distant, culturally, as well as issues that are present in our daily lives,” Drewal said. He noted that the symposium will also explore violence and death of African Americans in the United States, themes that are part of this larger story.

A performance by the Egúngún masqueraders from the Oyotunji African Village in South Carolina will headline the first day of the symposium. The weekend will conclude with a dance party featuring the West African and Afro Peruvian rhythms of Chicago Afrobeat Project and Golpe Tierra at The Sett-Union South

Honoring Ancestors in Africa and Beyond: Arts and Actions is free and open to the public, and registration is now open. To register, visit Join the conversation on Twitter at #ancestorsinafrica.

The symposium is presented in conjunction with Whirling Return of the Ancestors: Egúngún Arts of the Yorùbá in Africa and Beyond, an exhibition hosted by Ruth Davis Design Gallery from January 24-April 8, 2018 and curated by Professor Drewal and students in his Curatorial Studies-Exhibition Practice class last fall.

The symposium is sponsored by the African Studies Program and the Department of Art History with additional support from the Institute for Regional and Institutional Studies (IRIS), Ruth Davis Design Gallery, Evjue Foundation, Center for Visual Cultures, Center for the Humanities, the Department of Afro-American Studies, LACIS, Wisconsin Union Directorate Music Committee, African Diaspora and the Atlantic World Research Circle, and the Anonymous Fund.

For more information, contact Will Porter, 608-265-9151,


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By Kyra Fox