Diversity and Harmony

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

We live in a time of great social and political unrest.  As a nation we are a diverse people who struggle to live in harmony.  One approach to dealing with this is to try to gain some understanding about the issues and viewpoints.  How can you even begin to comprehend Person ZYZ and his or her views on Issue ABC if you know very little about the person’s background, etc., and equally little about that issue?  Knowledge is power—and what better concept for a university to deal with than knowledge?!  This blog seeks to provide information about both the university’s and the library’s resources to gain understanding, to gain knowledge.  One example is the new 18 hour Africana Studies minor offered by the College of Liberal Arts.  This description of one of the introductory courses for that minor, AFRC 111, Introduction to Africana Studies, says it all.  “This interdisciplinary course will introduce and explore the past, present and future of Africana Studies and the paradigms and perspective that make up the discipline. The course will introduce students to African, African-American, and African Diaspora studies. Topics will include race constructions and representations of Blackness, slavery and emancipation, colonialism and anti-colonial resistance, Black internationalism, Diaspora, Apartheid, and Jim Crow.

University of Southern Indiana

Rice Library’s University Archives Special Collections (UASC) holds a collection of African cultural artifacts called The African Cultural Diversity Showcase.  “The showcase was envisioned and developed by Dr. Joseph Uduehi with the assistance of Dr. Michael Ndemanu and Dr. Amanual Beyin. Other contributors included Dr. Sweet Ebeigbe, whose cultural artifacts from Benin-City, Nigeria have enriched the collection, and Provost Ronald Rochon (now President) and Prof. Michael Aakhus both of whose collections have made a valuable impact on the showcase. The goal of the African Cultural Diversity Showcase is to educate the public about African culture through African artifacts that are physically available in a public place. This public place is the USI Rice Library, which houses these African visual artifacts. The artifacts are available to teach basic elements and principles of art as they pertain to lines, color, shape, form, texture, etc. at the elementary to college level.  The artifacts are also to showcase the common elements of cultural similarities across the African continent.” Artifacts from 5 African countries are included in this showcase/collection.  There are far more than can be shown here, and worthy of a look.  Why not schedule a time with University Archivist Jennifer Greene (812-464-1832; jagreene@usi.edu) to come in and see more of them?  Let’s take a look at a few, mostly visually, of these countries and representative artifacts.

Resources Consulted:

UA 077, the African Cultural Diversity Showcase

All information pages on the countries courtesy of the CIA World Factbook, the one page country summaries.

Dress with blue, green, and tan coloring. Black dots throughout. Green bow.
Source: UASC 077-106; CAM 039.JPG
CIA World Factbook
Wooden wall sculpture depicting a man and woman carrying objects on their heads. Huts and trees are present in the background.
Source: UASC UA 077-222; CAM 037.JPG
CIA World Factbook
Black elephant, with plastic tusks, feels like leather, and actual hair on the ears.
Source: UASC UA 077-061; ERI 009
Tightly made tan wicker basket/vessel with a leather handle stitched to the top.
Source: UASC IMG_4858.JPG
CIA World Factbook
Small wooden statue stained black with large woven fan for hat. Very large flat head.
Source: UASC UA 077-153; GH 116
This sculpture, made from one piece of wood, is a unity carving. It is the most famous of Ghana’s art work, known for its beauty and for the difficulty of carving each one. It is made from one piece of wood, the roots of the baobob, redwood, or blackwood tree. The color is dark brown or black. It symbolizes the African struggle for freedom and the unity of the people.
Source: UASC UA 077-180
CIA World Factbook
This statue seems to represent the Nok culture in Nigeria. The exaggerated clothing and jewelry represented is typical of this culture. Red clay.
Source: UASC UA 077-022
Red clay jug painted grey and white with painted engravings into the jug from Nigeria.
Source: UASC IMG_4974.JPG
CIA World Factbook
Zulu telephone-wire inspired basket. It is tightly woven out of tall grass, and is tan and brown in color. This was typically used to carry small objects and used as decor. It is traditionally sold in markets.
Source: UASC UA 077-041
This is a marimba, a wooden musical instrument with steel like keys, made from a mixture of dark and light wood. The body is a gourd called a calabash. It is played with both thumbs. The tune is determined by the length of the keys and the maker. The marimba was developed in Central America by African slaves, and related to the balafon, another instrument made from a gourd and also built by African slaves. It is now the national instrument of Guatemala and Costa Rica. Its modern use includes solo performances, woodwind and brass ensembles, etc.
Source: UASC UA 077-049; SA 008






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