The fourth annual Cluster conference was held at the University of Bayreuth from 11th to 14th October 2023 on the theme of “Spatialities.” Featuring three keynote speakers and over thirty panel sessions, the conference brought together participants from various academic disciplines, including artists and activists, to discuss the reconfiguration of African Studies through the lens of the spatial turn.
A highlight of this event was the performance lecture led by Dr. Cassandra Mark-Thiesen on the topic Exploring Spaces between Academia and Arts, with presentations by the Ph.D. candidate Edidiong Ibanga and the JRG's academic advisor, Prof. Tanya Ansahta Garnett, and her band - Gaya Verse. The Reggae Sunsplash event in Liberia was discussed, highlighting its historical connotations and the implications for Pan-Africanism in Liberia. Drawing from the current archival work of the Junior Research Group, extracts from the Reggae Sunsplash tapes were played to enact reflections on the "everyday" life of Liberians at the time and the role of music in a society that was faced with certain sociopolitical conditions. The panel also reflected on memory and biographies as other sources of historical knowledge, highlighting the need for a multimodal approach to historical narrations.
The presentation was interspersed with live musical performances by Gaya Verse (supported by Glory Otung and Ange Salomé Messeng Ekossono), featuring songs like "Africa Unite" (Bob Marley, 1979), and "Zombie" (Fela Kuti, 1976). Gaya Verse is the musical encounter between ReggaeDub musician and producer Samuel Vlieghe, pianist Mickael Vlieghe, and Singer/Songwriter/Professor Tanya Ansahta Garnett. Their reverberating soul-jazz-reggae-dub fusion transposed the presentation from a traditional academic format to an immersive audiovisual and artistic experience. Their performance was also enjoyed by a wider audience on the evening of 13th October during the Cluster's social gathering at Iwalewahaus.
Photos by Fabrica Lux Photography