Nigeria set to host UNESCO ISC’s Board Meeting; As CBAAC revisits slavery theme for 2012 int’l confab

Posted: March 8, 2012 in arts/culture

Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) has announced “Slave Trade and Slavery in the Arab Islamic World: Untold Tragedy and Shared Heritage” as theme for its forthcoming International Conference scheduled for Calabar, the Cross River State capital, between Wednesday, March 14 and Thursday.

The international conference is expected to draw participants from different academic backgrounds, namely from Africa and the Arab-Islamic region, including a host of eminent specialists from around the world.

The event also comes on the heels of the recent announcement of Nigeria as host for the forthcoming meeting of the International Scientific Committee (ISC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s Slave Route Project billed for between Tuesday, March 13 and Wednesday 14.

Nigeria thus follows in a roll call of countries that have previously hosted the event which include: Cuba, Angola, Toronto and Colombia.

Papers expected to be presented at the international conference in Calabar include:  Two papers by Paul Lovejoy: Biographical accounts of enslaved Muslims in Africa and in the Americas and Assessment of existing frameworks for developing research: What remains to be known; two papers by Abdi Kusow; The slave trade and slavery in the Red Sea and Slave trade and slavery in Somalia; Michael Gomez’s Slavery and empire in the early Sahel; Abderrahmane Ngaide’s When the slave frees the master: Kingdom of Fuladu in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Others are: Slave agents in the Ghadamis-Timbuktu Hmida network: An illustration of symbolic violence in a slavery setting, by Daddi Addoun; Jennifer Lofkranz’s  Crossing network boundaries : Trade between the Sahel and the Guinea Coast in the nineteenth century; Abubakar Babajo Sani’s Biographical notes on the lives of some prominent North African Arab slave merchants resident in the Central Sudan in the nineteenth century, and Colored by history: The struggle of slave descendents in the Western Cape for personal and national identity in post-Apartheid South Africa, by Colin Jones

The presentations also include 13 other papers by scholars from North, West Africa and Europe.

Historical studies on slave trade and slavery have tremendously incised in the past decades to document this human tragedy, recognized by the United Nations as a ‘crime against humanity’, during the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001.

With this growing interest, several researches were carried out, supported by African and African Diaspora studies programmes, developed around universities worldwide. Such phenomenon particularly improved investigation and dissemination of knowledge on this tragic page of our history.

Entrusted with the mandate of helping to build “the defences of peace in the mind of men”, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also invested in this field of research with the drafting of the UNESCO General and Regional Histories to document on important historical facts from different regional perspectives, but most recently, the launch in 1994 of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, which constitute significant responses to deal with this slave trade and slavery as well as their consequences that affected the whole of humanity and aftermaths of which presently remains globally.

However, these efforts focussed mainly attention on the trans-Atlantic slave trade to Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, shedding therefore more light and gathering considerable knowledge, understanding and awareness rising on the scope, importance and impact of this unprecedented human tragedy in the New World. This unfortunately restricted the scope of research on this global phenomenon to the XVI to XVIII century period. A major reason to this is the existence and availability of documents and archival records enabling the tracing of historical facts related to this history in Europe and the Americas in particular, main sources of historiography.

On the contrary, and even though started centuries before the trans-Atlantic slave trade, very little is known today about the internal slaving in Africa and the trans-Saharan slave trade and slavery, as well as in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and around the Mediterranean. Documents in Arabic including Ajami (manuscript in African languages written in Arabic alphabet), Ottoman Turkish, Persian being insufficiently explored and oral tradition becoming dominant in the exchanges in these regions, the resulting effect is the absence of documents, museums and archival records.

Presently, history has developed new approaches and methodologies, including oral sources in order to document modern historiography. It opens therefore a new avenue for investigation in this part of history, still largely uncovered.

The importance to document about slaving of millions of men, women and children within Africa, but also throughout the Arab Islamic World, around the Red Sea and the Mediterranean is expected to contribute to an objective assessment of this first ‘Globalization’ in human history.

The UNESCO Slave Route Project went further to translate this into its strategy to focus more on promoting research and initiatives on slave trade and slavery in regions insufficiently covered, within Africa and the Arab-Muslin World, among others.

Recent studies paved the way to this endeavour, although conducted in majority by scholars from outside of the concerned regions. Also, conferences, colloquiums and seminars on this issue provide leading recommendations for further investigations.

According to CBAAC, the planned international colloquium on “Slave Trade and Slavery in the Arab Islamic World: Untold Tragedy and Shared Heritage” has a peculiar importance, as besides revisiting the different routes of slave trade and slavery within Africa and in the Arab-Muslim World, the three-Day conference will provide more insight on the foundations, the characteristics and the functioning of this human trafficking. Reconciling the duty to remember and historical truth, this reflexion will highlight the effects of slave trade and slavery on contemporary societies within this particular context, considering the multiple transformations and cultural legacies that this tragedy engendered.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Nigeria is to host the meeting of the International Scientific Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s Slave Route Project billed for Tuesday, March 13 and Wednesday 14.

To be hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation under the coordination of the Director of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), Professor Tunde Babawale, activities of the planned meeting, according to organizers, will be reported to the Director General and the General Assembly of the UNESCO, just as resolutions taken at the meeting will be put before the African Union (AU).

According to Toyin Falola, Vice President, ISC, UNESCO Slave Route Project, the board meeting in Nigeria highlights the leading role of Nigeria in world issues,  the global stature of CBAAC as a first rate national cultural institute, and the influence of the CBAAC head to attract the ISC to Nigeria, and broker this crucial international meeting.

In addition, the high-level meeting is expected to review global issues on old and contemporary forms of slavery, study the Calabar slave sites, review partnership with various African countries and discuss updates on the Permanent Memorial on the slave trade and slavery to be built in the United Nations complex in New York.

Furthermore, the meeting is lined up as a follow up to the Head of States’ Summit in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, and the Declaration of the Summit and the Proclamation of an International Decade for People of African Descent.

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