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Eye on Africa: Cherif Keita, "From Northfield, MN to the land of the Zulus"
Thursday, 07 Nov 2019
12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Room 201, International Center
Event Details:

About the Speaker:

Chérif Keïta teaches Francophone literature of Africa and the Caribbean, as well as advanced languages courses. A native of Mali, he has published books and articles on both social and literary problems in contemporary Africa. His special interests include the novel and social change in Mali, oral tradition, and the relationship between music(traditional and modern), literature and culture in Africa. Professor Keïta is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker, with a trilogy of films about some of the founding figures of the African national Congress of South Africa.

About the Talk:

In 2009, I completed a documentary film titled, "Cemetery Stories: A Rebel Missionary in South Africa" as part of a trilogy on the missionary origins of the South African liberation movement. It is summarized in these words: "Cornfields and Tembalihle, two communities in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal(South Africa), resisted forced removals from their land for more than 90 years, first under British colonialism and later under Apartheid. Labeled as "black spots" and "informal settlements", they survived this long ordeal of constant harassment to become the first communities in post-Apartheid South Africa to benefit from the new land dispensation laws. Oral stories said that American missionary William Cullen Wilcox had challenged official mission policy to establish their twin settlements in 1912 as a bulwark against aggressive colonial land-grabbing schemes. Almost a century after their creation, the two communities are reunited, as they had long wished, with the descendants of William Cullen and Ida Belle Wilcox, the rebel missionaries whose radical support for racial equality and social justice had led them to mentor decades earlier the future first President of the ANC, John Langalibalele Dube(1871-1946)  and to open the doors of US education to a number of promising black South African youth in the late 19th century." This talk will be about the journey that led Reverend William Cullen Wilcox (1850-1928) and his wife Ida Belle Clary(1858-1940), from Northfield, Minnesota, to the British colony of Natal(South Africa), where they labored as missionaries of the American Board, from 1881 until 1917, when they were driven out of South Africa for their support for human rights and full citizenship for the black colonial subjects. Considered for a long time as "failures" upon their return to the US, and ignored by both politicians and historians in South Africa, William Cullen and Ida belle Wilcox were posthumously recognized in 2009 with the Award of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in Silver for their pioneering role in the South African liberation struggle. In the course of the talk, I will show clips of "Cemetery Stories: A Rebel Missionary in South Africa."