New Logan Center conference to explore Pan-Africanism

From Oct. 13-19, the Logan Center will host Returns, the first gathering of an extensive multiyear research project on Pan-Africanism.

The long and somewhat fraught history of Pan-Africanism—a worldwide socio-political movement that calls for solidarity between all people of African descent, both on the continent and those living internationally—is embedded in Chicago’s South Side arts development. The project, entitled The Ties That Bind: Waves of Pan-Africanism in Contemporary Art and Society, will foster discussion between artists, scholars and curators in Chicago across three public forums over the next two years.

“Logan Center Exhibitions is thrilled to convene a stellar group of artists and thinkers to discuss the impact of the Pan-African movement on the arts and culture of Chicago,” said Yesomi Umolu, Logan Center Exhibitions curator. “Returns marks the first in a series of exciting conversations that we look forward to having with the city and the world over the next two years.” 

The first of the three gatherings, Returns will feature panels, a roundtable discussion and film screenings. They are all free and open to the public. The dedicated website will gather texts, images, videos and viewpoints from the research and public events.

The Returns public convening will take place over two chapters. The first, from Friday, Oct. 13 to Sunday, Oct. 15, will feature scholar Abdul Alkalimat, scholar Romi Crawford, author and educator Haki R. Madhubuti, scholar Dominique Malaquais, artist and writer Naeem Mohaiemen, photographer Marilyn Nance and filmmaker Floyd Webb, as well as include an exploration of major Pan-African festivals of arts and culture that took place in the 1960s and 1970s.

The second chapter on Thursday, Oct. 19 will feature post-colonial theorist Françoise Vergès, who will lead a public roundtable discussion about the origins of Pan-Africanism and its role in the contemporary culture and politics of the African diaspora.

Funding for The Ties That Bind comes in part from a $50,000 grant Umolu was awarded last spring by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to begin research on the project. Umolu plans for the project to culminate in a publication and final exhibition that will be presented in the Logan Center Gallery in fall 2019. 

“As a highlight of our fifth-anniversary celebrations, The Ties That Bind reflects much of what we hope to achieve at the Logan Center, a locus for impactful and collaborative artistic innovation,” said Bill Michel, executive director of UChicago Arts and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. “This project, and Yesomi’s work with artists, scholars and other curators, fosters cultural engagement across our communities at the University, on the South Side and across the city of Chicago.“

For a full schedule of events, visit