Symposium: AfricAsia: Overlooked Histories of Exchange

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September 14, 2020 to September 16, 2020
District Of Columbia, United States
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Asian History / Studies, Fine Arts, Humanities

AfricAsian Spaces: Localizing Exchange  
September 14, 9–11 am 



Africa and Asia are often presented as monolithic and distinct entities, though they have been intertwined since antiquity. Professor Elizabeth Lambourn will offer an introductory overview of “AfricAsia” and the historic connections between these regions. Professor Pedro Pombo, artist Shiraz Bayjoo, and curator Zoe Butt will then consider key sites of exchange and their cosmopolitan milieus. Senior researcher Dominque Malaquais will serve as a respondent.  


Part of the series AfricAsia: Overlooked Histories of Exchange 

Dr. Elizabeth A. Lambourn is a Reader (Associate Professor) in South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies at De Montfort University in the UK. A historian of South Asia and the Indian Ocean world before 1500 CE, she is committed to the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural study of medieval history, and her work engages equally with texts and ‘things,’ and with texts as material ‘things.’ Originally trained in art history, she now spends a lot of her time reading—and talking to—anthropologists, archaeologists, and textual scholars. Elizabeth has published widely on the circulation of artefacts, animals, people, and ideas around the Indian Ocean area. Current research interests include: the material worlds of the ‘India Book’ (a sub-corpus of the documentary Genizah), food cultures and dietetics, emic perspectives on materiality, and equine cultures—always explored in the context of South Asia and the Indian Ocean world. Her most recent publication is the research monograph Abraham’s Luggage: A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World (Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Dr. Pedro Pombo is Assistant Professor at Goa University, India. He received his PhD in Anthropology in 2015 from ISCTE- IUL, Portugal, with an ethnography on spatial belonging, local history and personal narratives in Southern Mozambique. Pedro investigates traces of maritime circulations in the Indian Ocean though dialogues between cartography and archives, art, heritage, and material culture. While researching the materialities and sensorial worlds of maritime histories, Pedro also explores coastal landscapes as repositories of oceanic histories and material and intangible heritages. Pedro is also co-authoring a documentary on Goans in Tanzania, focusing in space, place, and personal memories, to be released in 2020. 


Shiraz Bayjoo is a Mauritian artist based between London and Mauritius. Bayjoo studied painting at the University of Wales, Institute Cardiff, and was artist-in-residence at Whitechapel Gallery in 2011. He has exhibited at Tate Britain and the Institute of International Visual Arts, London, New Art Exchange, Nottingham; 5th Edition Dhaka Art Summit; 14th Biennale of Sharjah; 13th Biennale of Dakar; 21st Biennale of Sydney; and is a recipient of the Gasworks Fellowship and the Arts Council of England. His work is represented in the Sharjah Foundation collection, UK Government collection, and French National collection, as well as private collections in Europe and Asia. Born in Mauritius, Bayjoo’s work focuses on the Indian Ocean and the European historical legacies that have shaped the region. Bayjoo has been a visiting lecturer and critic at universities in Europe and the US, most notably the Courtauld Institute, Central St. Martin’s College of Art, and Monash University in Australia. Bayjoo’s practice explores the social, political, and historical conditions integral to Mauritian cultural identity and the wider Indian Ocean region.  


Zoe Butt is a curator and writer who lives in Vietnam. Her practice centres on building critically thinking and historically conscious artistic communities, fostering dialogue among cultures of the globalizing souths. Currently Artistic Director of the Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Ho Chi Minh City, Zoe formerly served as Executive Director and Curator, Sàn Art, Ho Chi Minh City (2009–2016); Director, International Programs, Long March Project, Beijing (2007–2009); and Assistant Curator, Contemporary Asian Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane (2001–2007)—this latter post particularly focused on the development of its Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Her work has been published by Hatje Cantz; ArtReviewArtAsiaPacific; Lalit Kala Akademi; JRP-Ringier; Routledge; and Sternberg Press, among others. Recent notable exhibitions include Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber—Journey Beyond the Arrow, (2019); Interface: Oanh Phi Phi (2019); and Empty Forest: Tuan Andrew Nguyen (2018). Zoe’s curatorial endeavors also include interdisciplinary dialogue platforms such as Realigning the Cosmos (2020–); Conscious Realities (2013–2016); and the online exhibition Embedded South(s) (2016). Zoe is a member of the Asian Art Council for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and in 2015 was named a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. 


Dominique Malaquais is Senior Researcher at CNRS (Institut des Mondes Africains, Paris, France) and co-director, with Kadiatou Diallo, of the experimental curatorial platform SPARCK (Space for Pan-African Research, Creation and Knowledge). Her work addresses intersections between political violence, economic inequity, and the making of urban cultures in the late capitalist present. Recent projects include reflections on Africa-Asia exchanges as effected through the visual arts, literature, urbanism, and spirituality (Afrique-Asie:  arts, espaces, pratiques, co-edited with Nicole Khouri and published in 2016) and Archive (re)mix (2015), a collection of essays on the production of art, visual and textual, as an exercise in exploring archival materials and techniques, co-edited with Maëline Le Lay and Nadine Siegert. Malaquais sits on the editorial board of several journals and reviews (ChimurengaPolitique africaine, Savvy, among others) and is Past President of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA). 



AfricAsian Personalities: Embodying History  

September 15, 9–11 am 



This session will explore the lives of individuals whose travels between Africa and Asia—by choice or by force—reveal complex networks of contact and entanglement across time. These personal trajectories mirror larger political and economic realities with resonances that continue today. Scholars Michael Laffan and Thomas Lockley will be joined by artist Thania Peterson for robust conversation with discussant Yoon Park. 


Part of the series AfricAsia: Overlooked Histories of Exchange 


Michael Laffan is a native of Canberra, Australia, and professor of history at Princeton. These days he is a student of Indian Ocean connections between Indonesia, South Africa, and Egypt. Having published on Islamic nationalism (Islamic Nationhood and Colonial Indonesia, Routledge 2003), orientalism (The Makings of Indonesian Islam, Princeton, 2011), and ideas of diasporic connection (Belonging across the Bay of Bengal, Bloomsbury, 2017), his latest manuscript interrogates the multiple claims of empire—Dutch, British, and Ottoman—on Malay and Arab subjects from the 1770s to the end of the Japanese occupation of Java. He also has a book up his sleeve on the story of the Cocos Islands, which is remarkably connected to that of Cape Town.  


Thomas Lockley is an associate professor at Nihon University College of Law in Tokyo. He has researched and published on a number of historical figures, but is primarily known for his work on Yasuke, the African warrior who fought beside the Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga in the 1580s. He has written books about Yasuke both in Japanese translation and in English. The latter, entitled African Samurai, was published in the US in 2019. 


Thania Petersen is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses photography, performance, and installation to address the intricacies and complexities of her identity in contemporary South Africa. Petersen’s reference points sit largely in Islam and in creating awareness about its religious, cultural, and traditional practices. She attempts to unpack contemporary trends of Islamophobia through her analysis of the continuing impact of colonialism, European and American imperialism, and the increasing influence of right-wing ideologies. Threads in her work include the history of colonialist imperialism in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, as well as the social and cultural impact of westernized consumer culture. Her work is also informed by her Cape Malay heritage and the practice of Sufi Islamic religious ceremonies. Petersen studied at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art in London. In 2018, Petersen held her solo exhibition IQRA at WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town. She has hosted additional solo exhibitions in 2016 at the AVA, Cape Town and in 2017 at the Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions both locally and abroad, including Radical Love at the Ford Foundation, New York (2019) and Present Passing: South by Southeast at the Osage Art Foundation, Hong Kong (2019). Petersen was awarded the Thami Mnyele Residency in Amsterdam in 2019. 


Yoon Jung Park is a leader in growing field of China/Africa studies. She is the author of A Matter of Honour: Being Chinese in South Africa (Jacana/Lexington Books) and is currently completing a book on Chinese migrants in Africa. Her research focuses on ethnic Chinese in southern Africa and perceptions of Chinese people by local communities, centering on migration, racial and ethnic identity, race/class/power, gender, affirmative action, and xenophobia. She is currently the Associate Director of the China-Africa Research Initiative at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; adjunct professor in African Studies, Georgetown University; and Executive Director of the Chinese in Africa/Africans in China (CA/AC) Research Network. She also has an affiliation with the Sociology Department, Rhodes University. She holds degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand (PhD), the Fletcher School at Tufts University (MA), and Pitzer College (BA). 




AfricAsian Materialities: Revealing Objects 

September 16, 9–11 am



History leaves its traces. Art historians Iftikhar Dadi, Ruth Simbao, and Ruth Barnes will look to the works of art and material culture shaped by AfricAsian exchanges. Drawing attention to both the overlooked treasures of history and the insightful works being created by artists today, this enriching session will also feature professor Finbarr Barry Flood as a discussant. 


Part of the series AfricAsia: Overlooked Histories of Exchange 


Ruth Barnes is the Thomas Jaffe Curator of Indo-Pacific Art at the Yale University Art Gallery. She received her doctorate from Oxford University and was previously textile curator at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Her publications include The Ikat Textiles of Lamalera and Indian Block-Printed Textiles in Egypt: The Newberry Collection in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. One of her most recent books, Five Centuries of Indonesian Textiles, co-edited with Mary Kahlenberg, received the Textile Society of America’s R. L. Shep Award in 2010.


Finbarr Barry Flood is founder-director of Silsila: Center for Material Histories and William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of the Humanities at the Institute of Fine Arts and Department of Art History, New York University. His publications include The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Makings of an Umayyad Visual Culture (2000) and Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu-Muslim” Encounter (2009). In spring 2019 he was the Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford. In autumn 2019 he delivered the Chaire du Louvre lectures at the Musée du Louvre on the theme Technologies de dévotion dans les arts de l’islam: pèlerins, reliques, et copies, accompanied by a book of the same title published by Hazan/musée du Louvre. 


Contact Info: 

Karen E. Milbourne, Senior Curator

Smithsonian  National Musuem of African Art


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