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The Leeds Library Salon: Translating Tricksters: a Book Launch and Salon on trickster’s tales and oral traditions

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The Leeds Library Salon

A quarterly event of talks, live art and performances, mini-lectures, and conviviality

Presented by Leeds Library and curated and co-produced by Renaissance One in partnership with Dr Emily Zobel Marshall

Thursday 11 July 2019 at The Leeds Library

Translating Tricksters: a Book Launch and Salon on trickster’s tales and oral traditions

Doors 6.30pm, Event 7pm – 9.30pm

Join us in an evening of words, music, shape-shifting and storytelling by leading artists who each respond to the cultural history of the trickster through their artforms, with Dr Emily Zobel Marshall as she launches her new book American Trickster: Trauma, Tradition and Brer Rabbit (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019), prize-winning poet John Agard, narratives by Shivanee Ramlochan, Professor Andrew Warnes and performance and choreography by Nii Kwartey Owoo and Ella Mesma Company.

 Our fascination with the trickster figure, whose presence is global, stems from our desire to break free from the tightly regimented structures of society, and daily living. We revel in the fantasy of the trickster whose energy and cunning knows no bounds and for whom nothing is sacred.

Wily, mercurial and anarchic, West African trickster figures Anansi and Brer Rabbit became symbols of survival and resistance in the Americas. Brought to the United States and the Caribbean by the enslaved, their stories helped to keep oral traditions alive and inspire ways to thwart and undermine the brutal plantation system.

All trickster tales demand audience participation and we invite you, the audience, to share a trickster item with us on the evening – this can be in the shape of a trickster poem, a trickster story or simply telling us what the trickster means to you

Artist Bios

John Agard

John Agard is a writer of books for children and adults.  He was a recipient of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2012 and has received numerous prizes for his writing.  Many students study his poems for their GCSE qualification.  John travels to festivals around the world to perform his poetry, offering wit, imagination and exhilarating wordplay.

Andrew Warnes

Andrew Warnes is a Professor of American Studies. He is Deputy Head of School of English at Leeds University. He states ‘I am a researcher in the field of US literary food studies. I am interested in how literature shapes our understanding of the world around us, actively shaping our experience of familiar foods and “foodscapes.” Early on in my career this interest led me to focus on the cultural critique of hunger to be found in many works of African American literature. A second book, Savage Barbecue (2008), shows how writings from colonial America and the heart of the British Empire reinvented the native Caribbean word barbacoa, flooding it with alien and Eurocentric associations that bore no relationship to any actual Amerindian practice. I have also written American Tantalus (2013), an interpretative survey of modern US literature which shows that expressions of insatiable desire, or what Scott Romine calls a "grammar of thwarted longing," are ubiquitous across this diverse tradition. More recently my work has focused on the cultural mediation of the American supermarket system and the promise of mass abundance that it heralded in the 1950s.’

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall is a Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature and Course Director for English Literature at the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University.  Her research specialisms are Caribbean literature and Caribbean carnival cultures. She is an expert on the trickster figure in the folklore, oral cultures and literature of the African Diaspora and she has published widely in these fields. She is currently establishing a Caribbean Carnival Cultures research platform and network. Emily organises, hosts and chairs literary events and has organised conferences on Caribbean literature and culture. She is a regular contributor to BBC radio discussions on racial politics and Caribbean culture and an invited speaker at national and international conferences.

 Her books focus on the role of the trickster in Caribbean and African American cultures.  Anansi’s Journey: A Story of Jamaican Cultural Resistance (2012) is published by the University of the West Indies Press. She will be launching her new book American Trickster: Trauma Tradition and Brer Rabbit published by Rowman and Littlefield which offers readers a unique insight into the cultural significance of the Brer Rabbit trickster figure, from his African roots and through to his influence on contemporary culture. Emily also writes poetry and lives in Leeds with her husband Tom and her two young children Theo and Rose.

Nii Kwartey Owoo

Nii Kwartey Owoo is a multidisciplinary artist interested in traditional practices found in West Africa and diaspora communities. 
He is a master drummer, dancer, choreographer and sound producer from Jamestown, Accra. Nii is currently living and working in Yorkshire. His work is deeply rooted in his own cultural heritage of the Ga people from Gamashie and his choreography retells ancient Ga stories in innovative and exploratory ways. At a young age Nii founded his own group Miishejeloi Dance Theatre. Nii's artistic practice has always given importance to local social issues that connect powerfully with global conversations relating to gender, spirituality and human rights. 

 Shivanee Ramlochan

Shivanee Ramlochan is a Trinidadian poet, arts reporter and book blogger. Poetry for Ramlochan is a work of witness: the central thread of her debut collection of poetry Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting (Peepal Tree, 2018) addresses and gives voice to survivors of sexual assault. The idea of a poem which says what it must – which speaks with its own unmistakable interior voice, and leaves the poet ‘awestruck and bewildered’ – is central to Ramlochan’s practice as a writer. The collection was critically acclaimed ad shortlisted for The Forward Prizes in 2018 (Best First Collection).  Shivanee also writes about books for the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the Anglophone Caribbean's largest literary festival, and she is the deputy editor of The Caribbean Review of Books.

Ella Mesma

British born artist of mixed heritage Ella is director of Ella Mesma Company, (Sadler’s Wells: Wild Card, Dance City Associate Artist, The ICA Festival, South Africa, the Women in Dance Leadership Conference, New York). She is also the creator of Roots of Rumba and Maya Gandaia.