The University of Iowa

WorldCanvass on October 8 Explores Slavery and Gender

September 21st, 2010

Produced by International Programs at the University of Iowa, WorldCanvass® explores topics that are international in scope and central to our understanding of ourselves as part of the global landscape.

Host Joan Kjaer blends discussions of culture, history, literature, language, politics and art with live musical performances, all in an effort to illustrate and illuminate the complexities that make us distinct from one another while celebrating our common humanity.

The live productions take place from 5-7 p.m. one Friday a month in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol on the campus of the University of Iowa and are free and open to the public.

The October 8 program investigates slavery with a particular focus on gender.  Leslie Schwalm of the UI History Department, co-organizer of the 2010 Obermann Humanities Symposium “Causes and Consequences: Global Perspectives on Gender and the History of Slavery,” will offer historical context for the varied systems of slavery across time and place and will suggest ways in which gender has shaped the ideologies and practices that have underwritten the development, decline, and repercussions of slave systems.  Specifically, she will challenge the notion that the model of the slave is male.

Teresa Mangum, director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, which is funding the symposium along with International Programs and University Libraries, will discuss how cross-disciplinary collaboration enriches scholarship and expands perspectives.

UI law professor Lea Vandervelde will read from her ground-breaking book, “Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery’s Frontier” and explain how research into the personal journals, military records, court dockets, and even frontier store ledgers revealed rich details of a slave’s life.

We’ll dig into the history of slavery in the coastal low country of South Carolina and Georgia when author Mary Helen Stefaniak reads from her novel “The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia” which is based on the story of West African Muslim slave Bilali Mahomet and his descendants.  Schwalm will reflect on the area’s Civil War history and art historian Barbara Mooney will talk about African American art and American architecture as it relates to slavery.

We then turn our focus to culture and consider, with ethnomusicologist Dennis Rathnaw, how the art and music that was present in Africa moved with the slaves to the new location and, in some cases, was transformed into something new.  Clarinetist Maurita Murphy Mead will play Brazilian choros and explain the slave origins of many of these works; and soprano Randye Jones will perform Negro spirituals, setting them in the slave context as well  later African American life.

Production partners are UITV, the Pentacrest Museums, KRUI and Information Technology Services.  UITV records WorldCanvass for later broadcast over Iowa cable television systems and for distribution on Iowa Public Radio and KRUI-FM at the University of Iowa. All programs are archived on the Public Radio Exchange.