The In-Betweenness of Things:
Materializing Mediation and Movement between Worlds
A One-Day Symposium at The British Museum
22 March 2013
This one-day symposium is scheduled to coincide with the Sowei Mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone exhibition, on display at The British Museum between 14 February and 27 April 2013. The mask at the centre of the exhibition could be said to mediate between worlds. It materializes the interconnectivity between the worlds of the colonized and the colonizer in 19th-century West Africa. On the one hand it represents the radical ‘otherness’ of an African masquerade tradition, on the other hand it illustrates how those very traditions incorporated Western objects – such as the European top hat – and made them symbols of power. This hybrid object is neither purely African, nor purely European, but exists in a space between. Aside from its ritual context in which the mask mediates between the domain of the spirits and that of humankind, it speaks of the multi-directional mobility of people and things as well as the entanglement of culture and power in the late 19th century. Today, the mask mediates between the museum and its communities, including diasporic communities who live ‘between’ London and Sierra Leone.