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Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, Florence Dolphyne, and Audrey Gadzepko


Nov. 11, 2005

The Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies hosted a tea and conversation hour with three scholars and activists who participated as invited speakers in the Symposium on the Achievements of African Women, sponsored by the African Student Association.

Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, associate professor of theater and film and women’s studies at the University of Kansas, is a scholar, creative artist, and political activist and author of Yoruba Dance: The Semiotics of Movement and Body Attitude in a Nigerian Culture. Her academic work focuses on women’s writings and gender issues in African literary theory and criticism, gender aesthetics in the African and diasporic revolutionary theaters, and cultural paradigms in national and gender identities. Her creative and artistic work spans playwriting, poetry, short story, stage performance and direction, and choreography.

Florence Dolphyne, professor of linguistics and Ghana’s first woman professor, worked with the United Nations as chair of Ghana’s National Council on Women and Development and served on Ghana’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which looked at human rights abuses in that nation from the time of independence. She serves on the Ghana Education Service, which advises the Ghanaian Ministry for Education.

Audrey Gadzepko, professor in the School of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, is currently a visiting scholar with the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, where she teaches a course on gender, communication, and women’s rights in Africa. One of the most outspoken voices in the Ghanaian media, she has worked in journalism for more than 18 years, as a reporter, editor, columnist, talk show host, sociopolitical commentator, and magazine publisher, and is the author of Selected Writings of a Pioneer West African Feminist: Mabel Dove (with Stephanie Newell) and What Is Fit to Print: Language of the Press in Ghana (with Aloysius Denkabe).

The three guests spoke individually and in dialog with the audience on issues pertaining to the women’s experiences of multiple oppression in patriarchal societies and spaces of agency, especially in the public sphere. Students in the multidisciplinary audience were particularly interested in how the women balanced their academic and political activities and the compatibility of earning an advanced degree and having a family. The speakers said that being involved in both Western and West African societies, represented here by Ghana and Nigeria, meant constant exposure to what Ajayi-Soyinka termed a “double patriarchy.”

The African Student Association sponsored the Symposium on the Achievements of African Women, held in Woodburn Hall and the Neal-Marshal Black Culture Center, on November 11-12, 2005. The symposium was organized to commemorate the achievements of African women in the social, political, and creative arenas, in the wake of Wangari Maathai, of Kenya, winning the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. The event featured two guest speakers and a panel that included the speakers and four additional members. Discussions, music, and African food rounded out the two-day program.