Africa Day builds partnerships

Organizers aim to make it an annual event

Drumming performance at the Africa Day banquet.
Drumming performance at the Africa Day banquet.
Photo: 
Organizer Adrien Djomo speaking at the banquet.
Organizer Adrien Djomo speaking at the banquet.
Photo: 

Five years after the inaugural event, Queen’s held its second Africa Day Symposium — a conference on the various research being done in Africa.

The symposium ran all day Thursday, and featured several speakers in a conference during the day and a banquet with music and art in the evening. Organizers Adrien Djomo, Maria Krause and Stephanie Simpson said they hope to make it a larger, annual event.

“We had the idea of making the Queen’s community come together, scholars and researchers,” said Djomo, an adjunct assistant professor in the department of geography.

“The idea mainly is to share, through this symposium, the various research being done in Africa and the Caribbean and also within the community.”

There were various panels, one of which discussed various projects done by members of the Queen’s community in Africa.

“There have been different presentations — incredible people working in various areas in Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and so on,” he said.

Krause, a PhD candidate in the department of political studies, added that they weren’t looking to “homogenize” Africa by not taking into account the varying regions, cultures and complexities within the continent.

“It’s been a challenge, but having this type of discourse is important to moving forward with best research practices, with sensitivity training and with being a holistic, constructive community that speaks into each other’s work,” she said.

Simpson, the associate director of the Human Rights Office, said although the conference is named “Africa Day”, they’re aware that it wouldn’t be possible to discuss the entire continent in one conference.

“The point of this is recognizing that there are many of us who may be working in silos with the University on different topics — so the symposium is an opportunity for people to really communicate and meet each other and to learn about the diverse work that is being done on the continent generally, and considering whether this could be a springboard for further partnerships and collaboration,” she said.

“People are trying to connect efforts rather than duplicate efforts and to look for partnerships — that really is part of the goal of the day. It’s not to assume that we could speak about every region and all of the complexities of Africa in one day, but to consider what is being done and how we can partner.”

George Sefa Dei, a professor at the University of Toronto and the keynote speaker at the conference, said he’s focused on the relationship between learning and teaching.

“I’m focusing specifically on the question of how we mentor and can make mentorship because I see that as very important when we have to deal with issues of reciprocity,” he said. “How do learners, teachers, parents and communities work together to enhance learning?”

He added that it’s important to make these kinds of partnerships within and between communities.

“I think it’s very important that we have these kinds of events because it’s a time for [you] to share knowledge, to know about each other, to disseminate information — whether it’s about Africa, Africa’s relation to Canada — the questions of partnership between scholars who are here and also are interested in going to the continent to do some work.”

Africa Day ended with a banquet at Sydenham Street United Church, featuring djembe drumming, poetry, spoken word and singing.

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