By Lyombe Eko
The African Studies Program, a constituent program of University of Iowa International Programs, has awarded Professor Christopher D. Roy, the Elizabeth M. Stanley Faculty Fellow of African Art History, the 2014 African Studies Faculty of the Year Award.
This award is presented to Professor Roy in recognition of his outstanding contribution to teaching and research in African studies at the University of Iowa for more than 35 years. The award also recognizes the distinguished contribution he made to the building of the highly-esteemed African art collection of the University of Iowa Museum of Art.
Professor Roy has worked closely with the art museum over the past 30 years to improve its holdings on African culture. From 1978-1991, he was the adviser to Max and Betty Stanley on their collection of African art, which they donated to the UI. The collection ranks as one of the three best university collections of African art in the U.S., along with the collections of Indiana University and UCLA.
Professor Roy and his wife, Nora, are dyed in the wool Africanists. He first went to Africa as a student in 1966. He subsequently served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso from 1970-1972 with his wife. Chris and Nora were married in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in 1970.
From 1994-97, Professor Roy created a CD-ROM program titled "Art and Life in Africa" that has been distributed to colleges and high schools across the nation. Funding for this major project was provided by grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Most of those videos now are available free of charge on YouTube, where his channel has been visited by more than 330,000 visitors.
Professor Roy’s research focuses on the art of Burkina Faso and West Africa. He has published a number of books on that subject. He is completing work on a book on the art of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso, whom he has been visiting and studying for 40 years.
He spent six weeks this past spring lecturing and traveling in South Africa at universities in Johannesburg and Cape Town, in Swaziland, and in the Drakensberg.
For over 35 years as a teacher and scholar, Roy has been guided by a motto that has an African ring to it: “Knowledge is like cow shit, it doesn't do any good until you spread it around."