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9 april 2009

Meertens Ethnology Lecture door dr. Ferdinand de Jong
Plaats:  Meertens Instituut, Symposiumzaal
Tijd: 15:30 -17:00

Invitation for the 9th  Meertens Ethnology Lecture
Thursday April 9, 2009

Dr. Ferdinand de Jong

Lecturer in Anthropology,
School of World Art Studies and Museology
University of East Anglia

The Lantern Festival of Saint Louis
Illuminating a Palimpsest Heritage

Abstract: The Fanal is an annual festival in which lanterns are taken through the streets of Saint Louis, Senegal. In this presentation – to be illustrated with photographs by Judith Quax – I will explore the historical continuities and discontinuities in this festival. Originally, the lanterns were built to illuminate the ostentatious dress and jewellery of prestigious Creole women while they walked to mass at Christmas eve. The lanterns literally highlighted the social hierarchy of this Creole society. In the late colonial era the Fanal was appropriated by Black politicians. Because of the political competition between the patrons of the lanterns and the violence and potlatch expenditures that emanated from it, the Fanal was suppressed at Independence, with the exception of occasional performances for visiting statesmen. However, since 1998 the festival has been revived as a tourist attraction of the city of Saint Louis. In December 2008, I attended the tenth edition of this festival, accompanied by the photographer Judith Quax.

Although the Fanal is presented as a ‘tradition ’, the format of the festival has considerably changed as its organisation is now entirely formalised and commodified. The festival has been fully monopolised by an independent production company. Yet the highlighting of social status is still very much at stake in this celebration. I will demonstrate that the festival commodifies a local heritage and extends that heritage into a contemporary, national economy of honour. As this festival embodies both precolonial and postcolonial rationalities of self-making, I will suggest that it is best understood as a palimpsest performance. This conclusion will be taken further to imply that heritage is best conceptualised as a technology of temporality.

Time:  15:30 -17:00  (drinks after)
Place: Meertens Instituut, Symposiumzaal
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For more information Irene Stengs, Tel. 020 – 4628564