Conferences and Meetings of the Network Multimedia Research and Documentation of African Oral Genres

Past Events

Past Events

 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

SEARCHING FOR SHARING: HERITAGE, MULTIMEDIA RESEARCHERS, STAKEHOLDERS IN AFRICA, AND DIASPORIC COMMUNITIES


13-14 December, 2013

Location: Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines- l’Université Mohammed V, Agdal, Rabat


Organization: Network “Multimedia Research and Documentation of African Oral Genres: Connecting Diasporas and Local Audiences”, Lacnad - CRB (INALCO) and Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines, Université Mohammed V


Convenors: Daniela Merolla, Khadija Mouhsine, and Jan Jansen

The conference investigates “sharing” video documents and scientific knowledge on oral heritage with the people who feel represented by it. It explores both sharing as a method for constructing representative multimedia documents and sharing of multimedia documents that were initially produced within the academic community. The prime focus is on how to deal with oral genres that represent heritage in a world where new technologies have become available not only for the researchers, but also for the local populations as well as the groups (of local non-academic scholars of local lore) that mediate between academic scholars and the performers and their audiences.

The idea of sharing will be explored by critically questioning which groups/people are involved in the creation of a heritage document. This sociological analysis is conjugated with the question of technology’s impact and literary/cultural transformation; is technology restrictive and therefore imposing a limited experience of an oral performance or does it ‘give’ openings for new aesthetic experiences? Moreover, it will be explored to what extent these documents can be institutionalized, in archives and museums, without transforming into political representations of hegemonic groups or without being strongly tainted by them.

The conference will take place 13-14 December 2013 at Rabat (Agdal), Marocco.

Since the conference is on 13-14 December, we propose the delegates to arrive on 12 December and to leave on 15 December. Address all questions to Jan Jansen at

Managing organizers: Daniela Merolla (Leiden University)
Khadija Mouhsine (Université Mohammed V)
Jan Jansen (Leiden University)

This conference is a follow up to the project: “Multimedia Research and Documentation of African Oral Genres: Connecting Diasporas and Local Audiences”, an initiative of Leiden University, the University of Hamburg, the Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales INALCO (Paris), the University of Naples L’Orientale, and the School of African and Oriental Studies SOAS (London), The World Oral Literature Project (Cambridge University GB). Academic partners are: the Language Centre of the University of Ghana (Accra, Ghana), the School of Languages of Rhodes University (South Africa), and the University of Bamako (Mali).


ABSTRACTS

Les littératures orales et la recherche multimédia : tisser les liens avec les auditoires locaux en Afrique et dans le monde

Colloque International - 13-14 décembre 2013

Faculté des lettres de l’université Mohammed V – Agdal, Rabat

  

RÉSUMÉS/ABSTRACTS (ordre alphabétique/alphabetical order)

 

Felix K. AMEKA (Université de Leyde)

 Constructions d’origines des Ewe et d’identité ewe par les nouveaux médias au Ghana et à l’étranger

 Suite à Verba Africana 4 et les discussions en rapport à la narration de Dartey Kumordzie sur la migration des Ewe enregistrée au festival Hogbetsotso (Merolla et Ameka 2012, 2013), j’explore dans cette communication comment les origines et l’identité des Ewe sont construites par des acteurs sociaux significatifs au Ghana et à l’étranger par le moyens de différents médias.

Les versions et les représentations examinées incluent la narration de Dartey Kumordzie (Verba Africana 4), le discours d’Agbotadua Kumassah - pendant le festival Hogbetsotso de 2011 - aux étudiants de Keta Senior High School et la discussion menée par Mawuli dans son website et son « forum page » sur Ghanaweb appelé « Say it Loud ». Les trois versions ont des revendications très similaires:

 - Les Ewe sont les premiers êtres humains dans le monde

- La langue Ewe est la plus ancienne et la première langue

- Les Ewe sont venus de l’est : Kumordzie lie les Ewe avec l’Extrême-Orient ; Kumassah les relie avec l’Irak ; et Mawuli avec Israël

- Les pratiques culturelles des Ewe d’aujourd’hui sont directement reliées à des pratiques en Israël ou en Egypte etc.

Les stratégies et les arguments pour soutenir ces revendications sont très similaires : 

  1. Des étymologies basées sur la ressemblance phonétique entre un mot Ewe et un mot ou une expression d’une langue de ces domaines. Par exemple, Kumassah retrace l’origine du mot Yewe dans le mot hébreu Yahvé et relie Hu - une des divinités asscocié avec Yewe - à un des noms de Yahweh; Mawuli prétend que le mot hébreu Ivri signifie Ewe et que les Ewe sont alors synonymes des Hébreux.
  2.  

  3. Ils utilisent tous une forme d’authentification: Kumassah se réfère à ses voyages en Israël en 2008; Kumordjie fait appel au discours académique; Mawuli fait appel à la Bible comme la source de revendications.
  4.  

  5. Ils ont des attitudes similaires envers le « peer review » et leur épistémologie. L’avant-propos à Kumassah (par Anna Cortelli d’une ONG basée à Londres) suggère que, dans sa présentation de l’histoire, il a effectué des recherches et sélectionné ce qui est important, pertinent et vérifiable. Cependant ceci n’est pas le cas avec sa version; lorsqu’on lui a demandé si ses livres sont examinés par des pairs, Mawuli répond qu’ils sont examinés par sa famille.


Je conclus que les stratégies afin de construire une origine et une identité sont très similaires dans les différents médias. Je discuterai des problèmes de transmission de ce type de traditions populaires dans la communauté Ewe envisagée.

Constructions of Ewe origins and identity in new media at home and abroad

 

Following on from Verba Africana 4 and the discussions of Dartey Kumordzie’s account of Ewe migration in the context of Hogbetsotso (Merolla and Ameka 2012, 2013), in this paper I explore the way in which Ewe origins and identity are constructed by some powerful players at home and abroad in different media.

The versions and representations examined include them one by Dartey Kumordzie (Verba Africana 4); Agbotadua Kumassah (2009) and his speech during Hogbetsotso 2011 to students of the Keta Senior High School and the discussion led by one Mawuli through his website and in a forum discussion page on Ghanaweb called ‘Say it Loud’.

 The three versions have very similar claims:

  • The Ewe are the first people on earth
  •  

  • The Ewe language is the oldest and the first language on earth
  •  

  • The Ewe migrated from the east: Kumordjie links it to the far east; Kumassah to Iraq; Mawuli to Israel
  •  

  • Present day Ewe cultural practices are linked directly to practices in Israel or Egypt etc.

 The strategies and arguments that are used to support these claims are very similar:

  1. Etymologies based on phonetic resemblance between Ewe words and some expression from one of the key areas. For example, Kumassah traces Yewe to the Hebrew word Yahweh and links one of the divinities asscoiated with Yewe, Hu to one of the names for Yahweh. Mawuli claims Hebrew Ivri means Ewe and says Ewe are aka Hebrews.
  2.  

  3. They all use some form of authentication: Kumassah refers to his travels to Israel in 2008; Kumordjie appeals to academic discourse; Mawuli appeals to the Bible as the source of the claims.
  4.  

  5. They have similar attitudes towards ‘peer-review’ and nature of knowledge

In a Foreword (by Anna Cortelli of an NGO based in London) to Kumassah there is the suggestion that in the presentation of history one carries out research, selects what is significant, relevant and verifiable. This suggests that this is the case with his version. When asked if his books are peer reviewed, Mawuli retorts, they are reviewed by his family.

 

 

Abdellah BOUNFOUR (INALCO, Paris)

 La voix et l’oral. Vers une poétique de la vocalité

 Comment nommer l’effet esthétique de l’usage du langage dans les sociétés dites sans écriture ou, plus précisément, à dominance orale ? Des dénominations sont en cours et la plus en circulation est sans conteste « littérature orale ». On connaît les critiques qu’elle a subies et dont il faut rappeler les plus importantes.

On a proposé des termes comme « orature » dont l’intérêt est d’évacuer la lettre, mais sans introduire la voix ou en la confondant avec l’oral.

Le but de cette communication est de proposer une élaboration du concept de voix permettant d’aller vers une poétique de la vocalité qui, on le devine, est à disjoindre de l’usage oral du langage.

Ma thèse est, donc, celle-ci : si « littérature » nomme l’usage esthétique du langage écrit, « vocalité » nomme l’usage esthétique du langage oral. Cette thèse tire sa pertinence méthodologique du fait que les moyens technologiques actuels donnent accès non seulement au texte, mais aussi à tous les composants d’une performance.

   

Kofi DORVLO (University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, Ghana)

 La conservation de l’héritage matériel des Ewe. Comment le partager avec la communauté locale et la diaspora

Les Anlos-Ewé occupent le sud orientale de la région Volta du Ghana. Ils célèbrent le festival dit Hogbetsotso pour commémorer la fuite de nos ancêtres de la ville clôturée de Notsie au Togo qui était sous la loi tyrannique du roi Ag ɔkɔli . A leur arrivée, ils ont institué plusieurs rituels pour conserver l’intégrité de l’état. Les rituels sont devenus un aspect du festival avec l’intention de purifier l’état du mal. Le roi des Anlos, Awomefia , l’officiant principal, est un serviteur à la présence des dieux et des ancêtres. Comme il n’est pas au-dessus de la reproche, il est prévu que le roi se soumet avant que les chefs et aux anciens à la performance des rituels à Agorwo ʋɔ nu , le premier hameau qui est cru être la maison d’habitation des dieux et des ancêtres. Ici, le roi doit donner un rapport annuel aux habitants, prenant en considération les problèmes que l’état encontre. Les chefs à leur part donnent sincèrement, au tour, la réponse en disant tout le ressentiment qu’ils gardent au cœur contre les uns et les autres dans l’année passée. Tous croient que, avec ce rituel, le ressentiment qui est associé avec les ondes négatives des pensées qui sont capables de détruire l’unité et l’harmonie de l’état, seront enlevées pour être remplacés par une forme thérapeutique de guérison. Pendant ces événements, les dieux et les ancêtres sont invoqués pour calmer, protéger et réconcilier les habitants et pour leur donnent le conseil et le support dans l’année prochaine.

Cet article introduit les rituels du festival : (i) D ɔ ɖ e ɖ e (enlèvement physique de la saleté dans la communauté, ce qui inclue le rassemblement et la disposition du matériel dont on a pas besoin dans l’espace au-delà de l’idole qui garde l’entrée pour protéger l’état contre les esprits qui causent les maladies mortels dans la communauté, (ii) A ƒ ekp ɔ kpl ɔ , (la purification mentale pour enlever les ondes métaphysiques de la pensée négative qui a un effet sur l’unité de l’état), (iii) Nugbidodo , (l’usage d’eau mélangée avec des herbes pour asperger les habitants), (iv ) Tsi ƒ o ƒ o ɖ i (une prière adressée aux membres de la communauté qui ont veçu avec beaucoup de respects avant ils ont disparu . Ceci est fait par la récitation des noms des défunts, et le versement de l’eau mélangée avec la farine de maïs sur la terre avec de l’alcool), et (v) Aba ɖ o ɖ o (un rituel pour commémorer les âmes des défuntes de la communauté en récitant leurs noms et leurs actions pour qu’ils intercèdent entre les morts et les vivants. La question est de savoir comment conserver et partager ces rituels qui sont associés avec le festival pour les rendre importants et bénéficiaux à l’etata Anlo et aux habitants Ewés dans un monde global avec des influences et des contacts culturels concurrents.

Également la présentation explore les méthodes de la documentation et du partage avec les communautés locales en tant que réponse à une partie des personnes qui croient que leur culture se désintègre et qui utilisent l’enregistrement vidéo et la vente des enreigestrements pour sauvegarder leur culture pour l’avenir. La présentation suggère également l’institution d’une « semaine du patrimoine » pour les communautés locales, les touristes, et les musées.

Preserving Ewe heritage material and sharing with local people and people in the diaspora

 The Anlo-Ewe occupy the South Eastern part of the Volta Region of Ghana and celebrate the migration festival called Hogbetsotso, a re-enactment of the escape of the ancestors from the walled city of Notsie in present-day Togo under the tyrannical rule of king Ag ɔ k ɔ li . On arrival, they instituted many rituals to preserve the integrity of the state. The rituals have become part of the festival with the objective of purging the state of evil. The Anlo king, Awomefia, the main celebrant of the festival is a servant in the presence of the gods and ancestors. As he is not above rebuke it is expected that he submits himself before the chiefs and elders to the performance of rituals at Agorwo ʋɔ nu , the initial settlement which is believed to be the dwelling place of the gods and ancestors. Here, the king is expected to present an annual report to the people taking note of the challenges facing the state. The chiefs, on their part, candidly respond in turns bringing out all the ill feeling they harbour against one another in the past year. They all believe that by this ritual, the ill feeling with attendant negative thought waves capable of destroying the unity and harmony of the state will be washed away and be replaced with therapeutic healing. On occasions like these, the gods and ancestors are invoked to placate, protect, reconcile the people and give guidance and support in the coming year.

The paper presents the rituals of the festival. These are: D ɔɖ e ɖ e (physical removal of dirt in the community, involving collection and disposal of unwanted material to the outskirts beyond the gate keeper idol that protects the state against spirits that cause deadly diseases in the community), A ƒ ekp ɔ kpl ɔ (mental cleansing for the removal of negative metaphysical thought waves that affect the unity of the state), Nugbidodo (the use of water mixed with herbs to sprinkle on the people, an act of cleansing and reconciling the people), and Tsi ƒ o ƒ o ɖ i (a prayer to the members of the community who had led exemplary lives before they died. This is done by reciting the names of these departed souls, and pouring water mixed with corn flower on the ground with liquor), Aba ɖ o ɖ o (a ritual to remember the departed souls from the community by reciting their names and their deeds for them intercede between the dead and the living). The question is how are these rituals associated with the festival to make them relevant and beneficial to the Anlo State and the Ewe people in general in a globalised world with competing cultural contacts and influences.

The presentation also explores the methods of documentation and sharing with the people as a response to a section of the people who feel that their culture is disintegrating and see video-recording and selling the videos as a way to keep their culture for the future. The presentation also suggests the institution of a Heritage week in the communities for people and tourists and for archiving in our museums.

 

Jan JANSEN (Université de Leyde)

 Au-delà des archives – Peut-on utiliser YouTube pour documenter le patrimoine culturel immatériel de l’Afrique?

 Les consignes d'utilisation de YouTube sur les droits d’auteur font référence au concept d’ « utilisation équitable » (« fair use ») des contenus disponibles sur le site internet de l’entreprise YouTube. Le présent article traite des conditions pour une « utilisation équitable » des contenus YouTube pour la documentation et l’enseignement du patrimoine culturel immatériel africain. La question est posée de savoir si la documentation et l’enseignement représentent une « utilisation équitable » de vidéos postées sur YouTube, même lorsque l’on s’attache à des objectifs purement académiques comme la compréhension de la signification historique, la beauté littéraire, et la valeur culturelle de ces matériaux. Le présent article entend tout à la fois mettre en pratique cette « utilisation équitable » en présentant les paroles d’un enregistrement sur YouTube d’un « classique » africain (un chant à la louange de Soundjata par le Rail Band du Mali avec Salif Keïta).

 

Fair-y Tales – Practicing fair use of African intangible heritage accessed on YouTube

 YouTube’s copyright policy refers to ‘fair use’ of the material available at their website. This article discusses the conditions for fair use of YouTube files for the documentation and teaching of African intangible heritage. It is questioned whether documentation and teaching is ‘fair use’ of YouTube material, even when it strives to merely academic objectives such as understanding the historical significance, literary beauty, and cultural value of this material. At the same time, this article claims to practice fair use by presenting the lyrics of a YouTube recording of an African ‘classic’ (a praise song for Sunjata by Mali’s Rail Band featuring Salif Keïta).

 

Russell H. KASCHULA (Rhodes University, Grahamstown)*

 * The author acknowledges the contribution of Bongiwe Dlutu as well as the Rhodes team of Keiskammahoek researchers led by Dr Lee Watkins

 Technauriture as a platform to create an inclusive environment for the sharing of research

 The aim of this paper is to situate the importance of orality in rural communities within the paradigm of Technauriture, that being the intersection of technology, auriture and literature and how it relates to imparting educational and other messages within source communities. The process of orality as allowed for through community meetings, oral histories, poetry and story-telling, and how it interacts with the recording process facilitated through modern technology, as well as the return of the oral material via technology in educational and archival circles will be further explored in this paper. These objectives will be pursued as part of empirical data collected in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

This area is inhabited by amaXhosa people and they are situated in the erstwhile homelands of Transkei and Ciskei respectively. These areas are regarded as disadvantaged. There is poor sanitation, gravel roads and there is often no electricity in the villages. Most of the villagers depend on government support grants and schooling is often problematic. These grants include Child Support Grants, Old Age Grants, Disability Grants and Foster-Care Grants. Furthermore, most of the community is involved in small-scale agriculture for survival. People often move from the village to other towns in order to gain employment, including domestic work and working on the mines in the mineral rich Gauteng Province. This is also in the hope of better schooling. The primary technological devices that people in the villages are familiar with would be radio and the cell phone. The question which this paper seeks to understand is how such devices can contribute in the educational milieu where even television sets are relatively uncommon. Furthermore, orality still proliferates in these areas and it is used for both documentation and dissemination of information in an educational and archival manner. This process is explored further in this paper.

The paper uses oral literary research that has been conducted in the Eastern Cape to show how the data collection process can interact with technology and how this technology can also be used to return information to the source communities.

 

Daniela MEROLLA (Université de Leyde) et Hachem JARMOUNI (Université de Saïs-Fés)

 La notion de « réutilisabilité » de la documentation audio-vidéo et la littérature orale amazighe : des projets de recherche et de partage

 Notre exposé est construit en deux temps. Il s’agit tout d'abord de s’interroger sur les notions de « partage », « repatriation », et « réutilisabilité » et sur comment nous pouvons répondre aux besoins différenciés (sinon concurrents) dans les communautés elles-mêmes. Donc, nous nous demandons ce que la documentation du patrimoine oral represente, et par quelle méthode le « détecter », pour ceux qui travaillent dans les écoles primaires et secondaires, pour les étudiants universitaires, pour les organisations culturelles, pour les femmes et les hommes qui composent les communautés rurales ou urbaines qui produisent le patrimoine oral, et pour les narrateurs et les poètes individuels. Par ailleurs, nous savons qu’il y a des « besoins concurrents » entre les communautés locales, les chercheurs, et les autres instances, qui sont également à prendre en compte. Nous montrons dans un second temps les éléments de « réutilisation » que nous essayons d’intégrer dans nos projets de recherche sur la littérature orale amazigh.

 

The concept of 'reusability' of Amazigh audio-video and oral literature documentation: our research projects and the issue of sharing

 Our presentation will initially treat the concepts of ‘sharing’, ‘repatriation’ and ‘reusability ‘ and the question as to whether and how we can respond to the differentiated (or competing) needs of the local communities. We intend to interrogate what the documentation of oral heritage represents - and by what method we can ‘understand’ it - for those who for example work in primary and secondary schools, for university students, for cultural organizations, for the women and men who constitute the urban and rural communities that produce the oral heritage, as well as for the individual narrators and poets. We also rise questions on whether there are ‘competing demands’ among local communities, researchers, and other institutions. In the second part of our paper, we present our preliminary ideas as to how we intend to incorporate aspects of the discussion on ‘reutilisability’ into our research projects on Amazigh oral literature.

 

Brigitte Rasoloniaina, (PREFics, INALCO)

 Film, Webdocumentaire… quels problèmes de réception pour la population locale ?

 Les problèmes de la réception de la population locale des réalisations de documents sonores accompagnés d’images (films documentaires, web doc…) comme moyen de restitution et d’archivage du travail du chercheur sont abordés dans cette contribution où nous nous interrogerons particulièrement sur le double statut des informateurs, à la fois émetteur/récepteur (support filmique de 7 minutes).

 Bibliographie/ Bibliography

France (de), C., 1989, Cinéma et anthropologie, Paris, Editions de la M.S.H., 400 p.

Mauro, D., 1996, Madagascar, la parole-poème. Chronique de l’opéra paysan, Movimento Production, 56 mn.

Paes, M.-C. & C., 1989, Angano, angano… Nouvelles de Madagascar, DigiBeta, Latérit Productions, 63mn.

Rakotomalala, A., 2013, Alahamadin’ny ZanadRanavalona sy ny Zanadrano. Alahamady à anosimanjaka (Alahamady à Anosimanjaka. Rituel du nouvel an, rituel politique, rituel religieux/Alahamady in Anosimanjaka. New year ritual, political ritual, religiou ritual), Production Rakotomalala A., 90 mn.

 

Mark TURIN (Université de Cambridge et Université de Yale)

 Indigitisation : Les vies « après-la-mort » de l’oralité documentée

 Le « rapatriement » de la documentation orale a longuement enflammé les débats parmi les chercheurs, les collectivités locales et les institutions consacrées à la collecte des genres oraux. L’ère du numérique a intensifié et a changé ces discussions d’une manière qui est parfois imprévisible. Un des changements concerne les notions de « retour » numérique et de gestion communautaire qui sont devenus plus inclusives que les définitions et les considérations juridiques concernant le rapatriement. De plus en plus les acteurs eux-mêmes sont impliqués dans la circulation de la culture, souvent en collaboration, pour gérer, préserver, utiliser et réutiliser —de façon mutuellement bénéfique et utile — les matériaux « retournés » numériquement.

La notion de rapatriement numérique est controversée parce qu’elle génère des réponses automatiques concernant la relation entre les formes matérielles et celles numériques des matériaux du patrimoine culturel. Bien qu’il soit tentant de supposer, à première vue, que l’objet numérique en quelque sorte remplace l’objet physique et fonctionne comme un substitut, il n’y a pas de définition standard ou de terminologie condivisée qui caractérisent les multiples pratiques des institutions, des individus ou de la collectivité locale autour le retour de biens culturels et historiques aux communautés autochtones sous une forme numérique.

Les substituts numériques ne sont pas toujours destinés à remplacer ou à être synonyme des matériaux physiques qu’ils peuvent représenter. Au lieu de cela, les matériaux numériques (ou numérisées) peuvent également fournir une autre forme, et une vie dynamique, pour certains objets physiques. Ces nouveaux matériaux numérisés et rapatriés peuvent donner une impulsion à la renaissance linguistique ou culturelle, peuvent stimuler la contention et le désaccord, ainsi que contribuer à la naissance de nouvelles formes culturelles et de produits populaires, encourager des nouvelles collaborations, et encore engendrer des nouveaux types de spectacles et de créations artistiques.

Si les matériaux numériquement « retournés » ont des utilisations inattendues et peuvent créer de nouvelles connaissances, comment pouvons-nous comprendre les processus de retourner (le « rapatriement ») et de « recevoir » par rapport à la culture matérielle? Comment pouvons-nous re-conceptualiser les questions éthiques concernant le retour lorsque des « substituts numériques » sont en jeu plutôt que les objets eux-mêmes?

Plutôt qu’utiliser les métaphores de la super-autoroute ou du Web 2.0 ou les appels les plus récents à se focaliser sur les « big data », nous devons insister sur un terrain numérique qui est empêtré par la pratique quotidienne et souvent par le désordre et les contradictions inhérentes à la pratique et à la notion de relation, de respect et de réciprocité, ce qui ne peut pas se résumer dans une seule métaphore. C’est par la continuité de la collaboration concernant plusieurs types de « retour » que nous ouvrons la possibilité de la création des connaissances. Il faut donc structurer le « retour numérique » à la fois par le numérique qui permet la multiplicité ainsi que par les actes de rapatriement qui renforcent les systèmes de relation dans un façon éthique.

 Référence

 Bell, Joshua, Kimberly Christen and Mark Turin, ‘Introduction: After the Return’ Museum Anthropology Review, 7-1/2 (Spring-Fall 2013), 1-21 (à paraître).

 Indigitisation: The afterlives of collected orality

 As a topic, repatriation has ignited debates for years amongst scholars, local communities and collecting institutions. The digital age has intensified and changed these discussions in ways that are sometimes unpredictable. One such shift is away from legal definitions and assumptions about repatriation to more inclusive notions of digital return and community stewardship. There are ever more stakeholders involved in the circulation of culture, often collaborating in innovative ways to manage, preserve, use and re-use digitally returned materials in mutually beneficial and meaningful ways.

Digital repatriation can be a contentious term that generates reflex assumptions about the relationship between digital and material forms of cultural heritage materials. While it may be tempting to assume, at first glance, that the digital object—as a surrogate—somehow replaces the physical object, no standard definition, nor agreed-upon terminology, characterizes the multiple practices of collecting institutions, individuals, or local community groups surrounding the return of cultural and historical materials to Indigenous communities in a digital form.

Digital surrogates are not always intended to replace, or be synonymous with, the physical materials that they may represent. Instead, digital (or digitized) cultural materials may also provide an alternative form of—and dynamic life for—certain physical objects. Such newly digitized and repatriated materials may be the impetus for linguistic or cultural revival, spur contention and disagreement, prompt new cultural forms or popular products, incite new collaborations, and engender new types of performances and artistic creations.

If digitally returned materials have unexpected uses and create new knowledge, how do we understand the role of giving back and receiving in relation to material culture? How can we re-conceptualize the ethical questions of return when digital surrogates rather than the objects themselves are at stake?

Rather than fall back on the metaphors of the super highway, or web 2.0 notions of user-generated content or more recent calls for a focus on ‘big data,’ we must emphasize a digital terrain that is enmeshed with the everyday practical and often-times messy and contradictory fields of relation, respect and reciprocity that cannot be boiled down to a singular metaphor. As we continue to engage with types of return we open up the possibilities for knowledge creation by the act of entering into lasting relationships. Digital return should therefore be structured by both the digital that allows for multiplicity as well as the acts of return that build off ethical systems of relation.

 Reference

 Bell, Joshua, Kimberly Christen and Mark Turin, ‘Introduction: After the Return’ Museum Anthropology Review 7-1/2 (Spring-Fall 2013), 1-21 (in press).

 

Peter WASAMBA (Université de Nairobi)

 Au-delà de la collecte de données en littérature orale : options pour combler l’écart entre les collectionneurs et les archivistes

Cette communication soutient que le défi principal pour la littérature orale au 21e siècle concerne la préservation et l’accès. Un domaine qui a été une préoccupation dans mon expérience du travail de terrain en littérature orale est le manque de lien entre la collecte et l’analyse des données d’une part et la préservation et l’accès de l’autre part. La question pertinente pour cette étude est la suivante : Qu'est-ce qui se passe des performances orales documentées après l’analyse des données et la rédaction du rapport ? Cette question met en évidence une lacune dans le processus de recherche qui n’a pas reçu l’attention nécessaire des chercheurs sociaux dans notre pays. Il est le chaînon manquant entre le travail de terrain ethnographique et celui de l’archivage que cette communication tente de combler. Si un certain nombre de raisons expliquent l’écart entre la recherche et le travail d’archivage, je soutiens que l’absence de collaboration entre les chercheurs et les archivistes est le défi principal.

Je commence la discussion en appréciant l’importance de la collecte de données, de la transcription, de la traduction, de l’analyse, et de l’interprétation pour documenter la littérature orale. Cela est suivi par une analyse descriptive de la méfiance de longue durée entre les chercheurs qui font du terrain et les archivistes et de l’impact négatif qu’une telle méfiance à eu sur la collecte de données d’une part et sur la conservation et l’accès des données de l’autre.
La relation problématique entre les chercheurs qui font du terrain et les archivistes est représentée par les deux camps antagonistes dirigés par Clive Cochrane et Bruce Bruemmer. Cochrane accuse ceux qui font le travail de terrain de se concentrer trop sur les pratiques d’enregistrement et pas sufficement sur l’accès à leur données, tantis que Bruemmer rétorque que les archivistes n’engagent pas les travaux de terrain et n'exploitent pas le plein potentiel de la technologie numérique et qu’ils sont donc à blâmer pour le manque d’accès aux collections d’histoire orale.

Dans mon expérience de recherche sur la littérature orale depuis deux décennies, j’ai compris qu’il y a très peu d’engagement structuré entre les collecteurs et les archivistes au Kenya. En évitant le jeu du blâme de Cochrane et Bruemmer, je trace la lacune de l’archivage dans le manque de collaboration entre les chercheurs de terrain et les archivistes. Le manque de collaboration se reflète dans les approches théoriques contradictoires à la recherche et à l’archivage, dans les lacunes méthodologiques, en particulier dans le manque d’un cadre d’archivage pour les chercheurs et de préparation académique.

Je soutiens des projets de recherche sur les littératures orales qui intègrent l’archivage dans les procédures de collecte et de traitement des données. Il est important que ceux qui font de la collecte se familiariser avec les pratiques d’archivage traditionnelles et numériques afin de s’assurer que la composante de la préservation fait partie de la méthodologie de travail sur le terrain depuis son idéation en tant que recherche, transcription, traduction, analyse des données et archivage.

 Going beyond data collection in oral literature research: options for bridging the gap between collectors and archivists

 This paper is premised on the understanding that the primary challenge for oral literature in the 21st Century is that of preservation for access. In my oral literature fieldwork experience, one area that has been of concern to me is the broken link between data collection and analysis on one hand and preservation and access on the other. The question pertinent to this study is: What happens to documented oral performances after data analysis and report writing? This question highlights a lacuna in research process that has not received requisite attention from fieldworkers in our country. It is the missing link between ethnographic fieldwork and archiving that this paper attempts to bridge. While a number of reasons explain the gap between research and archiving, it is my argument that lack of collaboration between researchers and archivists is the main challenge.

I commence the discussion by appreciating the importance of data collection, transcription, translation, analysis, interpretation and archiving in oral literature fieldwork. This is followed by a descriptive analysis of the historical mistrust between fieldworkers and archivists and how the divide has impacted negatively on data collection on one hand and data preservation and access on the other.

The problematic relationship between fieldworkers and archivists is represented by the two antagonistic camps led by Clive Cochrane and Bruce Bruemmer. Cochrane blames fieldworkers for concentrating too much on recording practices and not enough on access, while Bruemmer retorts that archivists by not engaging fieldworkers and exploiting the full potential of digital technology are to blame for the lack of access to oral history collections.

In my oral literature research experience for two decades, I have gathered that there is very limited structured engagement between collectors and archivists in Kenya. I avoid the blame game that consumes Cochrane and Bruemmer. I trace the archiving lacuna to lack of collaboration between fieldworkers and archivists. Lack of collaboration is reflected in conflicting theoretical approaches to research and archiving, methodological deficiencies, especially lack of archiving framework for fieldworkers, academic backgrounds and attendant attitude problems.

I advocate for oral literature fieldwork designs that integrate archiving into data collection and processing procedures. It is important that collectors acquaint themselves with traditional and digital archiving practices in order to ensure that preservation component is part of fieldwork methodology from its inception in terms of the research design, transcription, translation, data analysis, and archiving.

Previous Activities 2010-2012

Period 2010-2012

 The first activity of the Network was a join workshop organized at the University of Cambridge by The World Oral Literature Project – Dr. Mark Turin. The "Archiving Orality and Connecting with Communities: World Oral Literature Project 2010 Workshop" focused on the impact that a greater digital connectivity has for the work of fieldworkers who are nowadays required by funding agencies to return copies of their work to source communities. More than 60 participants attended the workshop. The workshop programme and review can be accessed on http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/1327/.

Mark Turing organized the event and chaired the General Discussion. Daniela Merolla and Jan Jansen were invited to present papers exploring their experiences together with other eighteen speakers. Daniela Merolla presented the experience of the NWO funded project African oral literatures, new media and technologies: challenges for research and documentation (2006-2009) and the specific case when all participants (researchers as well as storytellers) belong to the international academic world although in different positions. Jan Jansen’s communication focused on his experience in working with video-recording for the making of the Volume no.3 of the Verba Africana series, the research and documentation series integrated in the NWO funded projects African oral literatures, new media and technologies: challenges for research and documentation (2006-2009) and Multimedia Research and Documentation of Oral Genres in Africa, Connecting Diasporas and Local Audiences (2010-2013).

A number of key points were raised by the communications. As indicated in the Workshop review, a main discussion point involved how digital connectivity could help "ensure responsible access to sensitive cultural materials". Oral genres express the perspective of the constituency of speakers vis-à-vis others. Because of the instable positions of minorities within nation states, state apparatuses are (often) diffident when researchers and storytellers work with oral genres spoken in minority languages. Political and personal repercussions can derive from working with oral traditions for both researchers and storytellers and Internet tools should be used with the full awareness of the forces in the field. Participants at the Workshop gave a number of examples and discussed practical and ethical aspects of working with sensitive material that can become worldwide available through the Internet. Directly linked discussion points concerned the ownership of the collected materials (individual or collective? of the storyteller, his/her community, and/or the researcher? What is the role of funding institutions and nation states?) and who is in control and/or has the right to decide what material is made available and how is made understood. Additionally, the participants discussed another dimension of working with oral genres: what are the consequences for both researches and source communities when the interaction made possible by digital tools and connectivity leads "Internet archives" to become sites for interaction and discussion rather than repositories of heritage data.

 

Other two meetings were held in Paris (Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales INALCO) organized by Prof. Dr Abdellah Bounfour, Prof. Dr Kamal Naït-Zerrad, and Dr. George Alao.

 

The participants of the first meeting (11 March 2011) were George Alao, Gorgio Banti (Naples University), Abdellah Bounfour, Jan Jansen (UL - minutes), Daniela Merolla (UL - chair), Brigitte Rasoloniaina (INALCO), Mark Turin (U Cambridge), Valentin Vydrine (INALCO), Kamal Naid-Zerrat. Daniela Merolla presented information sent by Prof. Dr Methchild Reh (U. Hamburg) who could not join the meeting. The partners from African Universities were similarly contacted via e-mail exchanges. Prof. dr Graham Furniss, SOAS member for the network, informed the group that he has suspended active involvement in the project as he has been appointed SOAS vice-director and is too occupied with administrative tasks in the years to come.

The general discussion took up an aspect concerning the 'archives', which have the goal to preserve, but which tend to get involved in issues of 'publishing' (and property rights) since preservation is more and more done in accessible databases. It was discussed whether, to what extent, and how archives can give free access to archived documents. This discussion appeared to be fertile in the decision making process for the 'local' conferences and workshops.

The participants presented the activities of the network members and discussed and decided the agenda of activities for the period 2010-2013. The activities include a Summer School to be held in Naples on the theme of the project (working with oral genres and new technologies, and connecting with source communities) with a training component for students and young researchers; a conference to be held in Hamburg in mid-2013; and a final conference at the end of 2013. In principle, the final conference is held in Leiden, but the network decided to explore the possibility - in terms of funding and local partners - to organize it in Morocco to give research results back to scholars and source communities in Africa.

 

The second meeting was held at the INALCO (Paris) on 9 December 2011. The participants were Dr. George Alao (organization), Prof. Dr. Giorgio Banti, Prof. Dr. Abdellah Bounfour, Dr. Daniela Merolla (minutes), Prof. Dr. Kamal Naït-Zerrad, Dr. Brigitte Rasoloniaina. They discussed the organization and programme of the Summer School African Oral Literatures (Old and new media, traditional and new audiences: Fieldwork methods and training) to be held in Naples. Prof. Banti presented the programme of the Summer School intended to provide an opportunity for intensive study for Master and PhD students on key topics in collecting, documenting and studying oral genres. The programme included plenty of space for interaction between student participants, keynotes and lecturers, and for addressing issues linked to orality, technology, and collaboration with the local communities in the MA and PhD students’ own work. The participants accepted the programme presented by Prof. Banti for the Summer School in Naples with minor changes. The discussion concerned both financial aspects and the content of the seminars. On the financial aspects, the participants agreed on the model of recuitement of MA and PhD students and the possibility to offer few limited grants to attend the Summer School.

 

 

Period 2012-2013

 

In the period 2012-2013, the Network’s activities included two major events: The Summer School African Oral literature. Old and new media, traditional and new audiences: Fieldwork methods and training, Procida, L'Orientale-University of Naples, 4-8 June 2012, Convenors: Prof. Giorgio Banti, Dr. Daniela Merolla and Dr. Maddalena Toscano; and the Network Final Conference: Searching for Sharing: Heritage, Multimedia researchers, Stakeholders in Africa, and Diasporic Communities, 13-14 December, 2013, Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines- l’Université Mohammed V, Agdal, Rabat (Morocco), Convenors: prof. Khadija Mouhsine, Dr. Jan Jansen en Dr. Daniela Merolla. The final conference was made possible also thanks to the University of Hamburg’s participation, financially and content-wise.

Moreover, collective and bilateral Network meeting were held to establish the scientific activities (for example on 8 June 2012, 28 March, 14 May, 24 October 2013) between the coordinator Daniela Merolla and partner university colleagues.

 

The Summer School provided five days seminars and workshops for Master and PhD students on key topics in collecting, documenting and studying oral genres. The seminars discussed theoretical and philosophical concerns in researching oral literatures and research results in terms of classification and interpretation. The workshops focused on methods and techniques of research. Examples from the researchers’ fieldwork experience structured seminars and workshops. All lectures touched aspects linked to the use of audio-visual recording and, to a different extent, the opportunities and effects of oral literatures on the Internet. The participants received a copy of the publication Multimedia Research and Documentation of Oral Genres in Africa - The Step Forward, edited by D. Merolla, J. Jansen and K. Naït-Zerrad (Köppe Verlag, Köln, 2012) derived from the previous three-year project of the International Network. The Summer School included moments of formal and informal discussion, and presentations of Ma and PhD students in forums and workshops.

The Summer School focused on the way in which scholars look at oral genres (fleeting performances / permanent textuality / negotiating meaning) and how they research them. Francesco Giannattasio’s keynote seminar warned the participants against the ‘reification’ of oral genres in writing and video recording – what he calls "the UNESCO approach" – when we forget the processes in the making of oral genres and that individuals (and not cultures) are holders of knowledge. As a musicologist, Francesco Giannattasio also invited the participants to go beyond the (imaginary) divide between language and music by considering the whole field of communication of the human voice.

Karin Barber’s keynote seminar proposed the participants to consider what is "text" in oral genres and its permanence beyond the transient nature of oral performances. The notion of "entextualization" refers to the process of "consistent fixing, sticking of form of words that outlast the here and now" and directs research towards the work of interpretation (by speakers and audiences) rooted in the web of oral knowledge. How communities look at (new) media for documentation and what video documentation can and cannot offer were other two aspects treated in Karin Barber’s seminar. New media documentation supports research. For example, scholars can watch the same performance over and over again and reach in-depth analysis of structure, texts, gestures, and the interactions captured on video. However, Karin Barber made clear that videos cannot substitute long-term observation and understanding of socio-cultural context and literary traditions.

The latter point was illustrated by Giorgio Banti, Maarten Mous and George Alao’s seminars that focused on research results concerning specific oral genres, respectively Somali gabay poetry, Iraqw riddles, and Yoruba lullabies. Refined analysis, classification, and interpretation emerge from the accumulation of data and knowledge over time in combination with constant reflection and analysis of the tools and techniques of research. Giorgio Banti, Summer School Convenor, compared broad classifications (speech genres, microgenres etc) with local complex systems of definition that need to be integrated in the researcher’s classification. Maarten Mous showed that it is impossible to speak of African riddles in general, although continuity exists in the riddles as global genre. The impossible generalization comes into view through in-depth analysis of Iraqw riddles as well as continental and intercontinental comparison. George Alao’s seminar focused on Yoruba lullabies recorded at school and aimed at didactic use. The textual analysis was enriched by the context offered in the video images and the interviews with children and teachers.

An example of the insights gained by studying a performance in video recording was given by Jan Jansen. His video recording captured the apparently idiosyncratic behaviour of an individual in the background of a performance. The analysis shows that the socially interactive character of oral performance over time should be taken into account, i.e. the fact that what is told can be matter of new negotiations in the long term. Jan Jansen speaks of "debts" for the researcher (rather than "copy-rights" of the storyteller) to emphasize the long-term exchange that is established between researcher and holders of oral knowledge. Jansen provocatively suggested the young scholars to reflect on their own academic networks in the long-term.

Brigitte Rasolainiana’s seminar offered younger scholars an overview of fieldwork practices focused on the collections of linguistic data and included the discussion of her video recording of a number of rituals in the island of Madagascar. The discussion on Malagasy ‘"iving traditions" was continued in the evening screening of the film Angano Angano, Tales of Madagascar (Cesar Paes/ Marie-Clemence Blanc-Paes, 1989) that documents oral myths and local history in a most enchanting and respectful approach, including interviews with the Malagasy speakers on their perception of oral storytelling and (video) documentation.

How communities look at media was pivotal to Mark Turin’s seminar on "The World Oral Literature Project" (WOLP). WOLP focuses on video collection led by community members and offers all researchers a digital space and platform for responsible archiving and Internet accessibility and connection. WOLP approach invites scholars to think their research in oral genres as a process of exchange that implies ethical procedures and focuses on the expectation of - and connection with -‘source’ communities who are the primary interested audiences and ‘consumers’ of oral genres (whoever collect them).

Daniela Merolla’s workshop zoomed in the digital connection of migrants and ‘home’ locations. In her workshop, she discussed methods of research of oral genres on the Internet, showed how orality is ‘re-mediated" on websites of African migrant organizations and individuals, and indicated a range of discursive functions of this "new orality", what Kaschula defines as "technauriture" (see Kaschula’s article in Multimedia Research and Documentation of Oral Genres in Africa - The Step Forward, edited by D. Merolla, J. Jansen and K. Naït-Zerrad, Köppe Verlag, Köln, 2012). MA and PhD students participated with presentations of (presence/absence of) oral genres on websites in the languages/areas of their research.

Technical and digital tools for researching oral genres were proposed by Kamal Naït-Zerrad and Simone Tarsitani. Kamal Naït-Zerrad proposed a detailed overview of electronic programs that can be used for transcribing and documenting audio-video and written documentation. He discussed problematic and strong aspects of each program in relation to a various range of research aims. Simone Tarsitani offered an accurate overview of audio and video techniques and equipments with interactive participation. He also gave a (happy ending) example of the difficulty and value of consent documents to collect performances, offering his answer to questions on the "copy-rights" of the holders of oral knowledge. Such questions were raised several times in the seminars and in the forums.

The last evening screening was dedicated to the Verba Africana series and to the opportunities of distributing ("connecting") the documentation of oral genres through the Internet.

All participants expressed the hope that there will be a sequel to the Summer School. Recommendations for future events included days organized by sub-themes, sessions in which the students should formally present their research proposals and/or state of research, and more time blocks for interactive participation. All the participants expressed their thanks to Maddalena Toscano (University of Naples L’Orientale) for the wonderful welcome and all arrangements made, to Giorgio Banti and the University of Naples and to Daniela Merolla as Network coordinator for the organization of the Summer School.

 

Seminars and Workshops:

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  • Francesco Giannattasio (University of Rome La Sapienza): Les formes de la voix, les ré-formes de l’écriture et la recherche dans le média-âge
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  • Karin Barber (University of Birmingham): Interpreting texts and Performances
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  • Giorgio Banti (University of Naples L’Orientale): Genres in oral literatures in the Horn of Africa – Summer School Convener
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  • Maarten Mous (Leiden University): Riddles in Africa
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  • George Alao (INALCO, Paris): Researching into and learning from African lullabies: the Yoruba example
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  • Jan Jansen (Leiden University): Fieldwork methods and oral performances
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  • Brigitte Rasoloniaina (INALCO, Paris): Pratique de Terrain
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  • Mark Turin (University of Cambridge/Yale University): Collect : Protect : Connect. The World Oral Literature Project’s Fieldwork to Archive Model
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  • Daniela Merolla (Leiden University): Verba Africana series and Oral Performances on the Internet. Methods of research – Summer School co-Convener for the International Network "Multimedia Research and Documentation of African Oral Genres"
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  • Kamal Naït-Zerrad (INALCO, Paris): Présentation de certains logiciels utilisés pour l’exploitation des corpus oraux
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  • Simone Tarsitani (Durham University): Audiovisual documentation of oral genres (and creation of digital archives)

 
Last Modified: 30-01-2015