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Lecture will explore West African masquerading traditions and hip-hop

  • March 29, 2018
Author John Thabiti Willis will discuss masquerading traditions in the West African town of Otta.

Written by: Tiffany Westry

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masquerade webAuthor John Thabiti Willis, Ph.D., will discuss his book “Masquerading Politics” on Thursday, April 5, at 4 p.m. in the UAB Hill Student Center, 1400 University Blvd. The event is free and open to the public.

Willis explores masquerade traditions in the West African town of Otta in Yoruba, focusing on the transformations of performers, performances, and the institutional structures in which masquerade was used to reveal ongoing changes in notions of gender, kinship and ethnic identity.

His research offers a nuanced understanding of performance practices in Africa and their role in forging alliances, consolidating state power, incorporating immigrants, executing criminals, and projecting individual and group power on both sides of the Afro-Atlantic world.

Hip-hop scholars suggest that the praise songs that masquerade performers and their supporters sing contain elements that emerge in the music genre. Following the lecture, two renowned hip-hop scholars, Rachel Raimis, Ph.D., from the University of Alabama and co-researcher on the project, and UAB Assistant Professor DeReef Jamison, Ph.D., will offer comments and insights on this topic.

The event is co-sponsored by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the UAB Institute for Human Rights, and the UAB departments of History, Art and Art History, Social Work, and African American Studies.