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Release: April 17, 2001

Scholar of Black literature, cinema and culture to speak at UI April 20

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Manthia Diawara, a New York University professor and expert in the literature and culture of the African Diaspora, will visit the University of Iowa on Friday and Saturday, April 20-21. He will give a free, public lecture Friday, April 20 about "The 1960s in Bamako: Malick Sidibe and James Brown" at 3:30 p.m. in the Gerber Lounge of the English-Philosophy Building.

Diawara, an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor at the UI, is a professor of comparative literature and film and director of Africana Studies at New York University. His visit is sponsored by the UI department of African American world studies.

A native of Mali, Diawara's early education was in France, and he later traveled to the U.S., where he received his Ph.D. from Indiana University. He has taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a widely published scholar on the film and literature of the Black Diaspora. His most recent works include his book "In Search of Africa," and a documentary film "Diaspora Conversations: From Goree to Dogon."

His UI lecture focuses on the work of photographer Malick Sidibe, who documented life in the Malian capital city of Bamako in the 1960s. Sidibe's photographs capture the vibrancy of this time, of a culture in transition from colonial to home rule. The changeover brought a reexamination of national and cultural identities that were hybrids of African and Western influences. The Malian nightlife Sidibe documented was especially lively in this era, when night clubs with names like the "Happy Boys Club" and "Les Surfs" played music ranging from Miles Davis and James Brown, to local top-of-the-chart hits.

During his UI visit, Diawara also will participate in a Dialogue with Clyde Taylor, a film scholar, literary/cultural essayist and professor at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Diawara and Taylor will discuss "Something Funny about Black Screen Comedy" on Saturday, April 21 from 9 a.m.-noon in Room 101, Becker Communication Studies Building. Clips of various movies including "Kings of Comedy" will be shown, and there will be ample opportunity for the audience to engage in serious discussion with these two international experts on African American and African films.

Diawara's activities at the UI are supported by the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program, which brings outstanding scholars to the UI campus for residencies ranging from a few days to an entire academic year. A native of Vinton, Iowa, Beam willed her farm to the UI in 1977. Proceeds from the sale of the farm were used to establish the visiting professorships program in her name. Since 1977 hundreds of eminent scholars and scientists have visited the UI campus to give public lectures and to meet with students and faculty.