MANTHIA DIAWARA & TERRI GEIS, ‘Towards a New Sacred’

Thursday 5th May 2022, 5.30pm (Yudowitz Lecture Theatre, Wolfson Medical Building)

Watch the recording of the talks here

We urgently need artists, poets and other technicians of things non-transparent to the naked eye to redeploy their energy and magic to reconnect our humanities.

            — Manthia Diawara and Terri Geis, 2020

In their recent collaborative work, filmmaker and scholar Professor Manthia Diawara and curator / academic Dr Terri Geis have explored the potential of a ‘new sacred’ to rethink and transform relations between different human cultures and between humanity and the world of which it is part. Their work has been guided by the far-reaching thought of Caribbean poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant, whose Poetics of Relation (2008) set out a new basis for understanding modernity and its forging of a ‘whole world’. In a 2017 essay on Glissant’s work written for Documenta XIV, Diawara argues that ‘to say that Glissant is a post-filiation philosopher is mostly to recognize his role as a theorizer of the concept of relation, which moves beyond the oppositional discourse of the same and the other, operating instead with a new vision of difference as an assembler of the “dissimilars.” His idea recognizes and enables a relation between different people and places, animate and inanimate objects, visible and invisible forces, the air, the water, the fire, the vegetation, animals and humans.’ In this Gifford Lecture, Diawara and Geis will expand on this idea and ask what different notions of the sacred might teach us about human relations throughout the world, throughout time. How do sacred sites, artworks, and practices illuminate the deepest possibilities for human connection, healing, and reconciliation? And how do they represent what we stand to lose through environmental extraction and degradation? Can Glissant help us understand the global implications of endangered, thriving, and ever-evolving worlds of the sacred today?

This special keynote Gifford Lecture is organised in collaboration with The Hunterian. Diawara and Geis are working with The Hunterian to realise a new exhibition project in 2023. 

Professor Manthia Diawara (b. 1953) is a writer, cultural theorist, film director, and scholar from Mali. He is Professor of Comparative Literature and Cinema at New York University, where he also heads the Institute of African American Affairs and the Africana Studies Program. In 2021-22 he is Visiting Professor at NYU Abu Dhabi. As a filmmaker, his major works include: Sembène: The Making of African Cinema (with Ngûgî wa Thiong’o, 1994); Rouch in Reverse(1995); In Search of Africa (1997); Bamako Siki Kan (2003); Who's Afraid of Ngugi? (2006); Édouard Glissant: One World in Relation (2009); Negritude, a Dialogue between Soyinka and Senghor (2015); An Opera of the World (2017). His films have been shown internationally, including at Documenta 14. Diawara has written extensively on the films and literature of the Black Diaspora. His books include: African Cinema: Politics and Culture (1992); Black American Cinema: Aesthetics and Spectatorship (1993); In Search of Africa (1998); We Won’t Budge: An African Exile in the World (2003); Bamako, Paris, New York (2007);African Film: New Forms of Aesthetics and Politics (2010). With Terri Geis, Diawara is the author of recent texts on André Breton, Édouard Glissant, Goya and more. Diawara and Geis co-curated the 2019 exhibition David Hammons: Ted Joans: Exquisite Corpse at Lumiar Cité, Lisbon and La Sirène de Yene (Dakar, Senegal).

Dr Terri Geis is an art historian, independent curator, and museum educator. She is currently Visiting Professor at NYU Abu Dhabi. Geis is also a Professor at the European Graduate School and an editorial board member of Studies in Photography (The Scottish Society for the History of Photography) and Nierika (Universidad Iberoamericano Mexico). She is a specialist on women artists affiliated with Surrealism and the intersections between Surrealism and the Americas. Her publications include: In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2012, with Ilene Susan Fort and Tere Arcq); ‘“My Goddesses and My Monsters’: Maria Martins and Surrealism in the 1940s,’ in Debates on Surrealism in Latin America: Vivisimo Muerto (Getty Research Institute); ‘Great Impulses and New Paths: VVV, Surrealism, and the Black Atlantic’ (Revue Miranda, Université Toulouse, 2017). multiple essays for The International Encyclopedia of Surrealism (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019). With Manthia Diawara, Geis has been awarded the 2021 senior fellowship through the Dedalus Foundation for a book project on the surrealist Ted Joans.