Wednesday, February 21, 2018 9:00 pm
On Tuesday 20 February 2018, scholars and academics from within and outside Nigeria converged at the Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, UI, for the commencement of the conference of the Humboldt Kolleg in the Humanities in Nigeria. The conference titled, “Of Texts, Spaces, Signs and Symbols: Questing Corpora for Translational Research in the Humanities”, is aimed at offering a platform to a selected body of researchers to reflect on a range of ideas on the functions, aesthetics, and implications of building corpora for the study of texts, entities, events and concepts in the presentation of both conventional and radical knowledge productions in the humanities. It also provides an arena for intellectuals to discuss and share ideas on how they have been contending with and appropriating issues of categorisations, taxonomies, and archetypes in humanistic scholarship.
At the opening ceremony, the convener of the conference, Professor Aderemi Raji-Oyelade of the Department of English, University of Ibadan, noted that the conference is organised to inspire both interest and education in the importance of scholarship in the humanities. He said, “Generally, ‘corpus’ is an organised assemblage of texts and “corpora” is used, loosely, to refer to the network of textual and cultural expressions that are available for codification, critique and consumption. Without close reading, reflection and analysis, the given corpus is in flux, in potential chaos, in relation to other corpora”.
He stated that the conference is made up of a rainbow of scholars-19 Humboldtians, 9 senior and distinguished scholars, 10 junior scientists and 24 pre-doctoral and postdoctoral researchers- from different parts of Africa and Europe united by the desire for scholarship in the humanistic discourse.
In his message to the conference, the Chief Host, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration, Professor Aiyelari EmilOlorun Ambrose welcomed the gathering and also invited them to the oncoming 70th Anniversary of the Premier University in November 2018, noting that Ibadan is a very peaceful place and a lot of transformation is happening at the University.
In her welcome address, the Head of Division, Africa and Middle East, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Dr Daniela Kneissl praised the orgainser of the conference for enabling the gathering of ambitious researchers from various countries and various fields within the humanities and social sciences.
She noted that the mission of the Humboldt Foundation is to enhance the international scientific and scholarly exchange between Germany and abroad. She said, “With our sponsorship programmes, we enable researchers from all over the world to spend extended research stays in Germany. After the return to their home countries, we go on supporting our Humboldtians with a wide range of alumni sponsorship instruments. One of these instruments are the Humboldt Kollegs. Every year, 50 Humboldt Kollegs are held throughout the world and allow Humboldtians to network among each other”.
The Chairman of the opening ceremony, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, in his remarks lauded the Humboldt Foundation in Germany for offering opportunities to scholars in Nigeria to engage at the cutting edge research in their various disciplines spanning the humanities and sciences, thereby aiding the growth of research internationally.
Banjo noted that the number of beneficiaries is growing and, in Nigeria, has grown sufficiently for these beneficiaries to form a kind of association. He said, “The multiplier effect of the activities of these scholars has been beneficial to the research enterprise in Nigeria, and specifically, at our university here. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the foundation for the opportunities it has been given to enrich the scholarship efforts of many of our colleagues”.
“The choice of Ibadan for this conference is an apt one. Our country features a welter of languages and an exoglossic official language. Translation goes on all the time at formal and informal levels, and interpreting even more so. This conference is bound to enrich our knowledge of this important phenomenon”, he said.
Delivering the conference keynote address titled, “Exchange and Intercultural Translation: Reflections on Corpora from the Janheinz Jahn Archive”, Professor Susanne Gehrmann of Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, spoke on an archival corpus kept at Humboldt University that consist among other materials, of the epistolary exchanges of the German Publicist, translator and researcher, Janheinz Jahn (1918 to 1973) with numerous African and Afrodiasporic authors, mainly during the 1950s and 1960s.
According to her, the letters are an important source on the decolonisation process. The intense epistolary exchanges notably started with the making of Jahn’s well known poetry anthology “Schwarzer Orpheus: Moderne Dichtungafrikanischer Volkerbeider Hemispharen” (1954). Named after Sartre’s preface “Orphee noir” to Senghor’s Anthologie de la poesie negre et malgache de langue francaise (1948), Jahn’s anthologies was the starting point of a postcolonial reception of African literatures in Germany. Later on, Jahn also collaborated in the founding of the Ibadan-based journal, “Black Orpheus”.
Gehrmann focused on Jahn’s exchanges with the leading figures of the negritude movement and with Nigerian writers and intellectuals while elaborating on research questions to be tackled in a long term project of the Humboldt University.
The conference continues with about 60 paper presentations till Thursday 22 February 2018.