Haroun Shah, Oxford Carnival Conference, July 2022. Photo Credit: Stephen Spark

Ghana to host International Carnival & Masquerade Arts Conference in December

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After months of planning, organisers of the 10th International Conference of Carnival & Masquerade Arts have announced the venue: Legon University, Accra, Ghana. There will also be collaboration with the University of Freetown in Sierra Leone.

The conference – a full, face-to-face event plus some online presentations – will take place from Tuesday 5 December to Friday 8 December 2023.

It’s a ground-breaking step in the conference’s development from its early days (in 2006) as the Biennial Steelpan Conference at the University of East London. Over the years, it expanded its remit to include mas, calypso, soca and sound systems, then in July 2022 it broke out of London (and became an annual event) at Oxford Brookes University. The move to Africa is on a different level and offers many exciting areas of culture, experience, traditions and practices for participants and audiences to explore.

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Under the theme Rhythm of a People: Tradition, Connection, Innovation and Decolonisation, the conference will bring together African and Caribbean visual arts and masquerade practitioners, calypso, steelpan, and traditional master drummers and percussion musicians, among many others.

The range of subjects is likely to be vast – past conferences have been eye-opening in the breadth of topics they have covered – but underlying them all is the binding force of rhythm and performance arts. Aside from their simple entertainment value, these cultural expressions have considerable potency and meaning in the context of colonisation and the transatlantic slave trade.

Accompanying the announcement was a call for papers, which includes a list of themes that potential contributors are encouraged to engage with. Abstracts should be submitted by (email to info@maestro7.co.uk) 8pm on Friday 21 July. Notification of successful submissions on Friday 28th July.

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If accepted, successful applicants will be required to submit their full conference presentation by 8pm on Friday 3 November. Presentations will be published in a special edition of the International Journal of the Carnival Arts in February 2024.

Conference activities will include a five-day mask-making workshop (focussing on Sierra Leonean Egungun, Poro and Bondo masquerade traditions), in additional to cultural and historical tours.

The Accra conference will be a unique opportunity for academics, students, carnival practitioners and media to come together to exchange knowledge and share experiences and practices across continents.

The full conference programme, including travel and accommodation packages, will be released in due course. In the meantime, more details can be obtained from www.steelpanconference.com.

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