- Kelly Presents at National Communication Association
- Freund Gives Presentations, Receives Award
- Carlson Presents at African Studies Association Conference
- Belanger is Quoted in HR Magazine
Carlson Presents at International Conference in Nigeria
Amanda Carlson, assistant professor of art history, A&S, presented a paper entitled “Calabar and the Female Body: the Relationship Between Nsibidi and Gender,” at the University of Nigeria, Calabar, as part of the conference Calabar Through Time: Issues and Challenges, April 24-27, 2013.
International travel was made possible with a University of Hartford Cardin Research Award. This paper is part of a larger book project, currently titled A Political Economy of Signs: Writing and Art in the Cross River Region of Nigeria (in progress).
Nsibidi is a distinctive feature of Calabar, Nigeria, today and in the past. In order to “know nsibidi” men must be initiated into the Leopard Society (Ekpe, Mgbe, Ngbe) and engage in a complex quest for meaning, bridging esoteric knowledge and lived experience. It can be used to record information, conceal knowledge, describe philosophy and folklore, signify identity or status, and act as embellishment.
Western scholars have been somewhat obsessed with translating individual nsibidi signs, which were never intended to be revealed to a larger audience of non-initiates. However, this paper argues that it is possible to analyze nsibidi without knowing or revealing its secrets. I present an analysis of the aesthetics of nsibidi, which consists of a highly evolved symbolism that relies upon public visual displays and patterns of “indirection” (the process of twisting language and meaning so as to conceal knowledge) and its relationship to the female body as a “writing space.” I explain nsibidi as a form of “restricted literacy” that provides insights into contemporary culture as it relates to gender and performance, underscoring how the female body today (as in the past) is caught in a complex layering of symbolism, which speaks to a much broader set of issues.