October 20, 2021

Chief Librarian of African Studies Praises $ 750,000 Grant for African Poetry Project


The grant will help fund a three-year collaboration in the conservation and promotion of African poetry in institutions across Africa, the UK and the USĐăng Nguyễn / Unsplash

Cambridge African Studies Department Head Librarian Jenni Skinner hailed a donation of $ 750,000 (£ 540,000) to the African Poetry Digital Portal as “an important moment in our approach to anti-racism work. and decolonization ”.

Skinner, who is part of the international team behind the portal, will be one of the researchers supported by the grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a major proponent of the arts and humanities in the United States. The grant will help fund a three-year collaboration in the conservation and promotion of African poetry in institutions across Africa, the UK and the US.

The Cambridge Center of African Studies library, which Skinner manages, houses a specialized collection of African literature.

Jenni Skinner said that “the energy surrounding this project is tangible and will provide our academics and students with opportunities to explore and engage with African poetry and poets that would not previously have been centered on this scale in our institution.

“This important collaboration comes at an important time in our approach to the fight against racism and decolonization, bringing together scientific expertise and remarkable collections from across the University for the benefit of the world. It’s a truly inspiring project. “

The African Digital Poetry Portal was founded in 2017 by the African Poetry Book Fund and has published nearly 100 African poets over the past six years.

The portal works with institutions such as the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford in the UK; the Library of Congress in the United States; the University of Cape Town in South Africa and the University of Ghana, and aims to provide access to “biographical information, artefacts, news, video recordings, images and documents related to African poetry”.

The grant will help fund 11 undergraduate research fellowships at collaborating institutions, as well as arrangements to expand digital archives internationally.

Kwame Dawes, professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the United States and director of research, hopes to shed light on the long tradition of poetry and poetic practices in African societies and says the portal is designed to “Give poets a chance to engage this tradition as part of their understanding of poetic form and practice.

“It has been a tremendous honor to form partnerships with people from such venerable institutions around the world,” he added.


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