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The Africa Institute, Global Studies University (GSU) (Sharjah, UAE)—a center for research, documentation, and study of Africa and its diaspora—hosted a two-day symposium celebrating the life and legacy of literary icon Toni Morrison on February 28 – 29, 2024, at The Africa Hall, in Sharjah.

This special event inaugurates the Toni Morrison Senior Fellowship in African Diaspora Literature and Cultural Studies, featuring music performance, panel discussions based on two film screenings, including one by Morrison’s son, and insightful discussions on her legacy.

“Toni Morrison was not only a novelist but a theorist of the first order. From The Bluest Eyes to Beloved, she turned her unapologetic gaze inward while being mindful of the white gaze, and in the process, she humanized and complicated the inner soul of African Americans and their agency. Her theoretical work complemented her storytelling with the most eloquent meditations on gender, race, and class in the context of the black experience in America. This body of work will remain a source of inspiration for generations to come,” said Salah M. Hassan, Director of The Africa Institute (GSU) and Distinguished Professor, Cornell University, USA.

The symposium shines a spotlight on Morrison’s artistic genius through screenings of two powerful films. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019 | 120 minutes) directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, and offers an intimate exploration of Morrison’s life and work with interviews of renowned figures like Hilton Als, Angela Davis, and Oprah Winfrey. The Foreigner’s Home (2018 | 57 minutes) directed by Rian Brown and Geoff Pingree, and produced by Ford Morrison, Toni Morrison’s son, “The Foreigner’s Home” delves into her 2006 Louvre exhibition, using exclusive footage and archival materials to illuminate her profound insights on race, identity, and the transformative power of art. Following each screening, invited scholars and critics discussed Morrison’s artistic vision and its lasting impact.

The program also highlights The Africa Institute’s recent launch of the prestigious Senior Fellowship in honor of Toni Morrison. The fellowship is aimed at supporting established scholars and independent thinkers who have made significant contributions to African and African Diaspora literature and cultural studies. The first recipient of this fellowship is Philathia Bolton, Associate Professor of English at The University of Akron, Ohio.

“My being selected as the first scholar to have her research supported by the Toni Morrison Senior Fellowship brings me great joy and feels highly significant,” said Professor Bolton. “I will be a U.S. scholar from her home state of Ohio in a different cultural context writing, researching and speaking about her, this iconic person whose works resonated across the globe. I am humbled by this and feel most honored.”

Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019), a Nobel Prize-winning author, was a literary trailblazer whose profound works redefined American literature and explored themes of identity, race, and the human experience with unparalleled depth and insight. Her legacy resonates as a powerful voice for social justice and cultural understanding.

On the opening day, Farah Jasmine Griffin, William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies at Columbia University, delivered the keynote address. The two days hosted panels discussing the films screened, the significance of Toni Morrison’s works with the son of Toni Morrison and architect Ford Morrison (Princeton University) as well as key Toni Morrison scholars and professors namely Margo Crawford (University of Pennsylvania), Riché Richardson (Cornell University), Manthia Diawara (New York University); Philathia Bolton (The University of Akron) and Inaugural Toni Morrison Senior Fellow.

The program commenced and concluded with tribute performances by The Africa Institute’s music academy, Al Multaqa Chamber Orchestra. They presented instrumental renditions of songs such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson and “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley.

The Africa Institute, Global Studies University (GSU) (Sharjah, UAE)—a center for research, documentation, and study of Africa and its diaspora—hosted a two-day symposium celebrating the life and legacy of literary icon Toni Morrison on February 28 – 29, 2024, at The Africa Hall, in Sharjah.

The Africa Institute, Global Studies University (GSU) (Sharjah, UAE)—a center for research, documentation, and study of Africa and its diaspora—hosted a two-day symposium celebrating the life and legacy of literary icon Toni Morrison on February 28 – 29, 2024, at The Africa Hall, in Sharjah.

This special event inaugurates the Toni Morrison Senior Fellowship in African Diaspora Literature and Cultural Studies, featuring music performance, panel discussions based on two film screenings, including one by Morrison’s son, and insightful discussions on her legacy.

“Toni Morrison was not only a novelist but a theorist of the first order. From The Bluest Eyes to Beloved, she turned her unapologetic gaze inward while being mindful of the white gaze, and in the process, she humanized and complicated the inner soul of African Americans and their agency. Her theoretical work complemented her storytelling with the most eloquent meditations on gender, race, and class in the context of the black experience in America. This body of work will remain a source of inspiration for generations to come,” said Salah M. Hassan, Director of The Africa Institute (GSU) and Distinguished Professor, Cornell University, USA.

The symposium shines a spotlight on Morrison’s artistic genius through screenings of two powerful films. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019 | 120 minutes) directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, and offers an intimate exploration of Morrison’s life and work with interviews of renowned figures like Hilton Als, Angela Davis, and Oprah Winfrey. The Foreigner’s Home (2018 | 57 minutes) directed by Rian Brown and Geoff Pingree, and produced by Ford Morrison, Toni Morrison’s son, “The Foreigner’s Home” delves into her 2006 Louvre exhibition, using exclusive footage and archival materials to illuminate her profound insights on race, identity, and the transformative power of art. Following each screening, invited scholars and critics discussed Morrison’s artistic vision and its lasting impact.

The program also highlights The Africa Institute’s recent launch of the prestigious Senior Fellowship in honor of Toni Morrison. The fellowship is aimed at supporting established scholars and independent thinkers who have made significant contributions to African and African Diaspora literature and cultural studies. The first recipient of this fellowship is Philathia Bolton, Associate Professor of English at The University of Akron, Ohio.

“My being selected as the first scholar to have her research supported by the Toni Morrison Senior Fellowship brings me great joy and feels highly significant,” said Professor Bolton. “I will be a U.S. scholar from her home state of Ohio in a different cultural context writing, researching and speaking about her, this iconic person whose works resonated across the globe. I am humbled by this and feel most honored.”

Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019), a Nobel Prize-winning author, was a literary trailblazer whose profound works redefined American literature and explored themes of identity, race, and the human experience with unparalleled depth and insight. Her legacy resonates as a powerful voice for social justice and cultural understanding.

On the opening day, Farah Jasmine Griffin, William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies at Columbia University, delivered the keynote address. The two days hosted panels discussing the films screened, the significance of Toni Morrison’s works with the son of Toni Morrison and architect Ford Morrison (Princeton University) as well as key Toni Morrison scholars and professors namely Margo Crawford (University of Pennsylvania), Riché Richardson (Cornell University), Manthia Diawara (New York University); Philathia Bolton (The University of Akron) and Inaugural Toni Morrison Senior Fellow.

The program commenced and concluded with tribute performances by The Africa Institute’s music academy, Al Multaqa Chamber Orchestra. They presented instrumental renditions of songs such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson and “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley.

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