A unique look into post-independence Nigeria: students showcase their artistic work in “egghead”

– Blyth McManus

Publications highlighting art works produced by Nigerian college students in the 1960s aren’t necessarily what one would expect in to find in the research collection of a Robinson professor in GMU’s International Affairs department, but GMU’s Special Collections & Archives recently acquired exactly that. Within Dr. John N. Paden’s generous donation of nearly 90 linear feet of material were two rare student art publications which provide insight into a very specific time and place in art history.

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Robinson Professor John Paden

In the 1970s, Dr. Paden was a professor at Ahmadu Bello University in northern Nigeria. The University was founded in 1961 and began admitting students in 1962. Dr. Paden’s work there was an important component of his larger work in Nigeria.

The publications provide a snapshot of the struggles Nigeria underwent shortly after securing its independence from England in 1960. Years of political and social turmoil followed its move into autonomy. Civil war broke out in 1965. The strong responses of some of Ahmadu Bello University’s students to the growing turbulence are candidly expressed through the visual arts and the written word in a publication produced by the Fine Art Department. Entitled “egghead,” the premiere issue was published in 1963. A second issue followed in 1964. The Smithsonian’s Collections website notes the existence of three issues in total, with the third listed as undated.  In addition to poetry and short stories, “egghead” features textile designs, three dimensional work, and paintings.

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Excerpt from “egghead”, published by Ahmadu Bello University Fine Art Department, 1964. John N. Paden papers, #C0194, Box 89, Folder 3, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

In the inaugural June 1963 edition, two pieces stood out to me as particularly representative of the moment. First, an article by Josephine Osayimwase entitled “’Adire’ Cloth” discusses the traditional Yoruban cloth dyeing technique called “adire.” Osayimwase also discusses a later, altered form of adire, known as “eleko.” Formal evaluation of the patterns coupled with examination of techniques used to create the designs suggests a connection between traditional Yoruban artisanal production and some textile work being done in the US in the 1960s as tie-dye entered the visual lexicon of American craft. To learn more about adire textiles, visit the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum here. Hints of tie-dye fashions to come are visible in the 1960s patterns shown. The suggestion that traditional Yoruban textile work exerted global influence in that era is supported by scholarly research. One source states that by 1976, the export of Nigerian textiles was essentially a “cash crop.”[1]

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Examples of furnishing fabric designs from “egghead”, published by Ahmadu Bello University Fine Art Department, 1963. John N. Paden papers, #C0194, Box 89, Folder 3, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

Painters also contribute to the publication. Julie, by John Ogo, shows a woman gazing into the distance beyond the viewer’s left shoulder. Her hand rests protectively on her belly, implying pregnancy. The expression on the subject’s face and the strength of her gaze seem to indicate to the viewer that she and her unborn child are part of a new Nigeria that is focused on the future.

This publication is important because they show the students’ unfiltered responses to dramatic cultural upheaval. The creative production of these students provides a snapshot into what a generation of Nigerian people was experiencing at that time.

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Resources: To learn more about the role that student publications played within the greater system of education in Africa, refer to:

  • Lindfors, Bernth. “Popular Literature for an African Elite,” The Journal of Modern African Studies,  September 1974. JSTOR – http://www.jstor.org/stable/159945.
  • Joseph, Marietta B. “West African Indigo Cloth” contains information about textile production and indigo work specifically. JSTOR – http://www.jstor.org/stable/333544695.

Visit the finding aid for the John N. Paden papers to learn more about Dr. Paden’s collection as well as others available for research.


[1] Joseph, Marietta B. “West African Indigo Cloth.” African Arts, Vol. 11, No. 2., pp. 34-37, 95.

UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center: 1978. 95.

Robinson Professor Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine – Making philosophy relevant

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Audio cassette recordings of philosophy lectures from the Thelma Z. Lavine papers in SC&A.

“Thelma wants to save the state,” reads a line from a humorous poem written by an unidentified schoolmate of future Robinson Professor Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine. Although the poem was written during Lavine’s college days, the words were surprisingly predictive.

Dr. Lavine did indeed work to “save the state.” She spent her career tirelessly helping students, politicians, and the general public think more cogently about philosophy and its relevance to social issues. In the early 1980s, Dr. Lavine developed a thirty-part television series, “From Socrates to Sartre,” which was broadcast first by Maryland Public Television and then nationally. The success of the series lay in Dr. Lavine’s ability to transform the often complex problems of philosophy into concepts accessible to everyday viewers. Hundreds of fan letters, now housed in the SC&A archives, attest to Dr. Lavine’s ability to communicate with people from highly varied backgrounds. She used her lecture series as the basis for her book, From Socrates to Sartre. Published in 1985, the mass market paperback is in its eighth printing today.

Throughout her life, Dr. Lavine was known for her energetic teaching style and dynamic persona. Dr. Lavine ended her professorial career at GMU, retiring in 1998, although she continued to remain in contact with the greater philosophical community.

SC&A recently processed a collection of materials generously donated to SC&A by Dr. Lavine’s estate. The collection includes correspondence, research, and writing, as well as over 300 audio cassettes. The collection is available for study in SC&A. Click here for a link to the finding aid.

The Thelma Z. Lavine papers were recently processed by Blyth McManus and Rachel Moran. Blog post by Blyth McManus.

Set models in the Federal Theatre Project personal papers

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Set model by Samuel Leve for the production Cherokee Nights. The Federal Theatre Project personal papers, Box 28, Collection #C0227, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

There are a number of recent additions to the FTP personal papers collection. The number of boxes in the collection has gone from 9 to 29 since the finding aid was originally created in October 2012. This is mainly due to a processing decision that instead of processing each collection individually we would put them all together in one larger collection. The finding aid lists the materials alphabetically by donor.

These are fun collections to look through because they contain personal items that shed light on individual experiences. Some of my favorite items from this collection include hand drawn and colored costume designs by Rhoda Rammelkamp Bolton, original poster mock ups by Anthony Velonis, and set designs by Sam Leve.

In addition to Federal Theatre Project materials, this collection also has some non-Federal Theatre Project play related documents. Images below are of a set model for the play Hand in Glove by C.K. Freeman and G. Savory. Sam Leve created the scenic design for the December 1944 to January 1945 production that opened first at the Playhouse Theatre and then continued at the Forrest Theatre both in New York City. This model is interesting because the set consists of two main scenes, an outside and an inside view of a house, that can swivel around allowing for quick transitions.

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Set model by Sam Leve for the December 1944 to January 1945 production of Hand in Glove. This image shows the set with the back of the house visible. The Federal Theatre Project personal papers, Box 29, Collection #C0227, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

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Set model by Sam Leve for the December 1944 to January 1945 production of Hand in Glove. This image shows the set with the inside of the house visible. The Federal Theatre Project personal papers, Box 29, Collection #C0227, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

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Set model by Sam Leve for the December 1944 to January 1945 production of Hand in Glove. This image shows the set from above. The Federal Theatre Project personal papers, Box 29, Collection #C0227, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights

-Michelle Page

The Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights was established in 1981 as part of the Project for the Study of Human Rights at George Mason University.  The Center examined the formation of the Bill of Rights and the ways that landmark document was influenced by George Mason of Gunston Hall.  It also coordinated an annual lecture series known as “The Legacy of George Mason,” and published these lectures through the George Mason University Press.  The lectures focused largely on the histories of states and countries that established bills of rights as well as the effects of the First Amendment.

Over the summer I had the opportunity to process records from the Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights.  These records date back from the time the Center was established in 1981 all the way to 1992.  Material in this collection includes videotapes from “The Legacy of George Mason” lecture series, photographs, address lists, audience survey forms, bibliography of human rights, organizational bill of rights, documents on advisory committees as well as a number of associations and institutional societies.  It also contains records pertaining to correspondence, grants proposals, budgets, and conferences, among other things.

While processing this collection I came across a folder containing hand drawn portraits of Supreme Court Justices Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter from 1982.   Both these portraits were done by Oscar Berger and were provided to the Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights by The National Portrait Gallery.

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Autographed sketch, drawn from life of Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Box 19, Folder 5. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives, speccoll@gmu.edu.

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Autographed sketch, drawn from life of Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Box 19, Folder 5. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives, speccoll@gmu.edu.

In addition to the above portraits I came across this photo, given to the Center by the Library of Congress, that is visually appealing and captures a piece of history.

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Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Collection #R0007, Box 19, Folder 11, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

These are photos taken during the Center’s “Legacy of George Mason” lecture series in 1982 and 1983.

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Photograph taken during a “Legacy of George Mason” lecture series in 1982. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Collection #R0007, Box 19, Folder 19, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

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Photograph taken during a “Legacy of George Mason” lecture series in 1983. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Collection #R0007, Box 19, Folder 20, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

 

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Photograph taken during a “Legacy of George Mason” lecture series in 1983. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Collection #R0007, Box 19, Folder 21, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

 *Ms. Page is an archival student assistant at Special Collections & Archives and working towards her MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.