Shola Adenekan - YORUBAPRINT

Description of the PI

shola.jpgI am the Principal Investigator for YorubaPrint – a Starting Grant project funded by the European Research Council. I am currently an Associate Professor of African Literature at the Faculty of Art & Philosophy, Ghent University. I am attached to the Department of Language and Culture, within the African Studies group.

I was previously an Assistant Professor of Literary and Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. I also recently held a diaspora fellowship at the English Department, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana, which was funded by Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria). I have a PhD in African Studies from the University of Birmingham, UK (2012), and after my PhD, I worked at University of Leeds (UK), University of Bayreuth (Germany) and University of Bremen (Germany).

Back in 2001, I trained as a journalist at the University of Westminster, London, UK, after which I had various stints as a journalist with BBC News Online, the Christian Science Monitor (USA) and The Guardian (UK), The Independent (UK), and a few other news media outfits. I am also currently the publishing-editor of an online magazine –  The New Black magazine.

Description of the project

This project is examining over a century of print culture in Yoruba-speaking region of Nigeria, and its cross-cultural connection with other cultural forms. The hypotheses of this study are that the contribution of Yoruba print culture to the emergence of new cultural forms – especially in literature and the performing arts sectors - is yet to be fully exploited and explained by researchers because they have concentrated on a small range of research materials. Due to its uniqueness, this culture constitutes a starting point for articulating the idea of modernity in a Nigerian context and for understanding contemporary literary history in Nigeria. As the precursor to the recruitment of Yoruba people into the European modernity project, Yoruba print culture is important not only because it was founded at the heart of the European colonial project, with its literature becoming a major medium of anti-colonial struggle, but also because it uncovers a robust history of urban engagements with modernity. The project provides a unique avenue for scholars, journalists and people from all walks of life, to understand the way in which print culture – with networks of mostly men - changed African societies, particularly those that constitute ethnic groups. This project is working with local researchers and archivists. Parts of these materials are precarious and endangered, and we have digitised some of them for the University of Ibadan libraries, Ibadan, Nigeria. Therefore, the additional uniqueness of this project is that its result will help to preserve knowledge about Yoruba modern history that is currently in danger of being lost forever. What this study aims to discover is not just the spectacular events that marked Yoruba print culture, but of utmost importance is the study of how everyday experience by ordinary people is mediated through the print culture and the cultural forms it helped to propagate. The result of this project will therefore leave a legacy that similar studies on print cultures in Africa can utilise.