UCL European Institute


Uniting Art and Academia: The Festival of Afro-European Arts, Performance & Scholarship

13 June 2024

We came together to celebrate Black cultural production and critical inquiry over a two-day festival in Bloomsbury.

Film Panel

This month the UCL European Institute and the SOAS Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies hosted the Festival of Afro-European Arts, Performance and Scholarship, celebrating Black cultural production and critical inquiry. In a series of venues across UCL, SOAS and beyond, the festival showcased artistic expression and academic discussion with students, staff and the wider public. 

One event explored embodiment through dance, chaired by Dr. Hélène Neveu-Kringelbach, featuring Seke Chimutengwende and a performance by Funmi Adewole, they explored questions of how choreographic practice can shed light on Black, African or Afro-European identities in Europe. Seke showcased extracts from his work It Begins in Darkness, and Funmi performed her work The Blind Side – ‘a solo piece of movement theatre in which I play a teller of folktales struggling to tell a folktale’.  

Further highlights included a panel on performance and critique through film, exploring how Blackness and marginalisation as experienced through time can be performed and visualised through the medium of film. Alongside discussion with Jane Kingsley-Smith (Roehampton), Duncan Salkeld (Chichester), and Jeff Bowersox (UCL), we saw the screening of multiple films including blak mistrys by dancer-filmmaker Candace Scarborough and the premiere of the UCL-produced Hearing Ghosts: The Life & Times of Josephine Morcashani, including a live interpretative performance by Helen McDonald, accompanied by piano. 

Helen McDonald
 In addition to artistic showcases, the festival hosted several panels and workshops focusing on the intersections of Afro-European histories, cultures, and identities including Leaving Eurafrica: Critical Reflections on the Elasticity of Modernism which looked at the ways in which continental African scholarship and Afropean thought can offer new avenues for challenging Eurocentric perspectives on modernity, and GO/CO-CREATE student masterclasses held by Candace Scarborough and Director of the UCL Slade, Mary Evans, discussing their creative journeys, bodies of work and they navigate artistic and academic spaces. 

Mary Evans
Leaving Eurafrica
To uncover local Black histories in Bloomsbury, we had a guided tour featuring Tony Warner’s award-winning Black History Walks and the festival also provided a platform for emerging artists and scholars to connect and collaborate over a reception and networking session at Senate House, aimed to foster the exchange of ideas, and to develop the communities built around the European Institute’s [Black Europe] workstream and SOAS’s Artistic Activism and Solidarity in an Age of Borders and Hostile Environments series.

Black History Walk
 Academic Lead, Dr. Hélène Neveu-Kringelbach said:
I have thoroughly enjoyed the spaces created during the festival, where the usual barriers came down and artists, members of the public, UCL students and staff came together to reflect on histories of racialisation in different European contexts, be inspired by the power of the arts to ask provocative questions, and to think about different forms of collaboration. This was a fitting end to a fantastic series of talks this year, and it has been heartening to see so many wonderfully engaged audiences.

Academic Lead, Dr. Jeff Bowersox said: 

We couldn’t have asked for a better range of perspectives on the relationships between ideas of Europe and ideas of Blackness. The series has really put paid to any idea that either concept (Blackness or Europe) has a fixed or stable meaning, opening up diverse possibilities for challenging exclusionary modes of thought. It’s been so exciting to see a critical mass growing over the course of the year, as staff and students have been drawn from all parts of the university and beyond. We are very excited to see the series feeding into the festival and to take this momentum into the next academic year. 

To stay up to date with the [Black Europe] workstream for the academic year 2024 – 2025, please visit this page. We are always looking to receive feedback and suggestions for future events, if you have any ideas, don’t hesitate to be in touch with a member of the team. 

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