First East African Cultural Conference
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Conference Dates: 
Wed, 2012-09-05 - Sun, 2012-09-09


The Eastern African Cultural Forum


KOLA in collaboration with the Literature Department of The University of Nairobi intends to run a five-day cultural forum to be held in September 2012 in Kenya as an inception activity of this project. The cultural forum will serve as a launch pad for the overall Eastern African project whose overall goal is to create borderless communities within the Eastern African society.  The forum encompasses conference sessions and cultural performances from selected cultural troupes from all over Eastern Africa.


KOLA thus requests interested scholars and cultural troupes who will participate in the forum to submit proposals for papers and performances to be presented during the conference sessions. The proposals should precisely capture the project’s theme: “Borderless communities: shifting and convergence of cultures across borders, boundaries and spaces”. Further, the troupes that intend to perform during the cultural forum should send the details of their groups and the items they will present during the forum. The participants in the forum may make their presentations through panels, documentaries, performances or individual paper presentations. The participants should indicate in their abstracts the forms of their presentations. They can also indicate about their conference requirements like video coverage, projectors, space for performance etc.


Modes of participation


In this conference the participants should write to the KOLA secretariat about the different forms that their presentation will take. This may include:

  • Paper presentations
  • Presentations of documentaries
  • Performances
  • Panel discussions




  • To discuss and suggest recommendations to governments on how to strengthen language and cultural policies to ensure the protection, preservation and revitalisation of the endangered ones
  • To explore and suggest practical ways of promoting cultural integration between Eastern African Asians and the majority African population
  • To promote the sharing of research findings on how indigenous and endangered languages, identities and cultures could be revitalised, preserved and disseminated through contemporary art forms.
  • To explore ways and means of exploiting modern media such as the cyberspace as sites for re-imagining old and emerging cultural and linguistic identities
  • To  share ideas on what lessons can be learned and harnessed from the contested, transgressive and conflicted postcolonial languages, cultures and identities




The Eastern African Cultural Forum will celebrate the cultural diversity of the Eastern African region. It will be a platform for re-imagining the multiculturalism of the Eastern African communities alongside the ongoing economic and political integration.  As these formal integrative processes deepen, there are cultural, linguistic, identity and heritage issues that should be explored with a view to establish various aspects relating to cultures, languages, identities and heritage in Eastern Africa: conflicted cultures and languages, translation and untranslatability, transgressive and the transgressed, dominant and the dominated and marginality. Sharing such knowledge may go a long way towards helping policy makers and implementers to align policy interventions to meet the emerging challenges and opportunities on language, identity, heritage and cultural issues. In a way, the conference will be a forum to suggest ways of strengthening and entrenching the spirit of the Eastern African Community.


It is, therefore, important that as the formal integration goes on, scholars, researchers, practitioners and artists reflect on the place of languages, cultures, heritage and peoples’ identity. Eastern Africa’s heritage, cultures, languages and identities should be scrutinised to establish their vitality and how they can be harnessed to a key component for developing this region and its people.


The East African states – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda – have a long history going back to the pre-colonial days. This programme however incorporates other Eastern African countries: Ethiopia, Southern Sudan and Somalia. This is in recognition that many communities in this region share common ancestry before they dispersed, migrated and settled in their present localities. These communities were colonised by various colonial powers who imagined administrative-political boundaries which, in many cases, divided communities by placing some members in one geopolitical entity and others in another. When these countries attained independence, the boundaries that divided their people were inherited intact and have not been reviewed ever since.


The emergence of the old East African Community in 1967 was widely celebrated as a step towards the unification of communities across imagined boundaries. However, the experiment collapsed due to political rivalries between Eastern African leaders of the time. Recently, the current leaders in the region have embarked on an ambitious process to unite all the six countries and possibly absorb more members such as the new state of Southern Sudan. These initiatives are largely driven by the desire for larger markets for capital, goods and services.

The conference will also celebrate the cultural and linguistic presence of the Asian community in Eastern Africa. Asians arrived in Eastern Africa during the construction of the Kenya – Uganda railway between 1890 and 1905 courtesy of the British imperial designs. The Asian community has a vibrant cultural presence in the region largely centred around their temples and mosques as well as in their increasingly exclusive residential areas. For this reason, they are widely seen as unwilling to integrate with the African majority in the region. During the conference, participants will explore the hurdles to cultural integration, the Asian migrant myths, legends and orature, their perception of home and exile, their cultural and linguistic identity, their religion, and the emerging myths, songs and narratives.



Participants will be invited to submit abstracts on the following broad themes and topics:


  1. Eastern Africa’s Cultural Revolution
  • Myths, legends and epics
  • Cultural/Ritual Performance
  • Rewriting tribal and national boundaries
  • Hip Hop, Popular Music and emerging genres
  • Creolisation, Sheng, and new linguistic identities
  • Cultural Community vs. Autonomic community
  1. Asians in Eastern Africa: (Un)translatable minority?
  • Hurdles to cultural integration
  • Step-Children of the British Empire
  • Migrant myths, legends and orature
  • Cultural (un)translatability
  • Concept of home and exile
  • Contested cultural and linguistic spaces, threatened identities,
  • Religions as gateways and barriers
  • The cultures of  the ‘Other’
  • Contemporary myths, narratives, songs, dances and drama
  1. Cultural aesthetics and the new media
  • Indigenous cultural aesthetics
  • Cultural minorities
  • Translocal cyberspace as an emerging and interlocking cultural space
  • Cultural mutations and amputations in cyberspace
  • Cultural adaptations in film, video, audio, and radio
  • The post-postcoloniality of cultural studies
  • (Inter)Nationalisation of cultures
  • Ethics and morality under reconstruction
  • The transformation of languages


The organizers will be happy to receive audio visual material, slides, photographs, calligraphy, handwritten and illustrated poetry, stories and samples of poetry, samples of calligraphy by, for, and, on indigenous communities, and other cultural groups, in order to set up a display and an exhibition, as a backdrop to the proposed gathering, to enlarge its archive, and, to further fortify and spread awareness about the indigenous and people’s knowledge systems and their modern transformations. These visual images will also be relevant in demonstrating the similarities of cultural ties.