Ilia Zdanevich: The Tbilisi Years: An Exhibit at Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Through July 12, 2019

From guest blogger, and exhibition Curator, Thomas J. Kitson, PhD*

Professor Valentina Izmirlieva (Slavic Department) and I approached Rob Davis (Librarian for Russian, Eurasian & East European Studies) and Tanya Chebotarev (Bakhmeteff Archive, RBML) early last year about the possibility of mounting an exhibition on Ilia Zdanevich (1894-1975).  The Russian-Georgian Futurist poet ended up in Paris and became, under the name Iliazd, one of the most prominent figures in the book arts, designing and printing numerous projects with Picasso, Giacometti, Ernst, and Miró.  At the time, Columbia University Libraries held only a few items related to Zdanevich, but Rob and Tanya immediately agreed to investigate what could be acquired in fairly short order and managed to put together a collection that allows us to see Zdanevich from an unusual angle.

“Ilia Zdanevich: The Tbilisi Years” focuses on a crucial period in Zdanevich’s career by placing him within the vibrant community of poets, visual artists, and composers working in relatively peaceful Tbilisi (Tiflis before 1936), capital of temporarily independent Georgia, during the Russian Civil War, from late 1917 until early 1921.  Zdanevich’s most intense engagement with avant-garde zaum poetry (written in “transrational” or “transmental” language – “beyonsense”) took place in a city where multiple languages – Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Turkish, Russian, German, French, English, and Persian – could be heard.  Zdanevich composed a cycle of dramas in which sound released from sense produces equivocal meanings. Any given combination of sounds might be taken to indicate a number of possible, often contradictory, meanings – and in some cases, sounds might be heard in multiple languages at once.  In order to print the “scores” to his dramas, Zdanevich learned to set type and soon became adept at producing highly original pages.  Zdanevich, with missionary zeal, took the principles of “mature” zaum and his new typographic skills to Paris, where his hopes for zaum foundered, even as typography eventually made his reputation.

Zdanevich’s older brother Kirill (1892-1969) is represented by several items in the exhibition, including holograph letters, a carved wood-block, and a splendid gouache composition (below) of a man waving a red flag.

Kirill had ushered Ilia into avant-garde circles in Petersburg and Moscow before World War I and now became one of his closest associates in Tbilisi.  They were key members of 41°, perhaps the most

radical poetic and artistic circle active in Tbilisi, where Symbolists, Acmeists, and Futurists performed together and published one another in their journals. (The sole issue of their manifesto, Sorok-odin gradus–one of only two copies in North America–is depicted above).  One of the finest of Columbia’s new acquisitions in the exhibition is a 1919 anthology (below) designed and printed by Zdanevich under the 41° imprint, For Sophia Georgievna Melnikova: The Fantastic Tavern,

Tiflis 1917 1918 1919.  The anthology features poems, lectures, plays, and artwork in Russian, Georgian, Armenian, and zaum by the regular performers at a cabaret that anchored artistic life in Tbilisi during these years.  The dynamism of Zdanevich’s typographic illustrations can be compared with Kirill’s gouache.

As I worked with the materials Rob and Tanya assembled, I came to appreciate very much a small collection that belonged to Dmitrii Gordeev, a young art historian whose lecture on Persian influences in 16th-century Georgian frescoes appears in Zdanevich’s Melnikova anthology.  This cache of photographs, music scores, postcards, and

poetry chapbooks (depicted above), many inscribed to Gordeev, helps to embody the Fantastic Tavern community and place it squarely in an even broader network.  For those of us used to seeing Zdanevich among either the pre-war Russian Futurists of Petersburg and Moscow or the mid-century artists of Paris, this exhibition offers a refreshing view of creative life in the short-lived haven of Tbilisi, away from the world’s great capitals.

I am grateful to both Rob and Tanya for their willingness to take on the challenge of organizing an exhibition not on the basis of what Columbia University Libraries already held in its collections, but on the serendipity of what the Libraries might be able to acquire in a relatively short time frame.  For me, the unexpected opportunity to curate when the collecting was done turned out to be a gift.  I leave it to Rob and Tanya to evaluate how well this method worked from the collectors’ standpoint.

*Thomas J. Kitson is a freelance translator, including Iliazd’s Voskhishchenie, Rapture: A Novel (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017).  Thomas holds a PhD in Russian language and literature from Columbia.

 Dr. Ambedkar and Columbia University: A Legacy to Celebrate

Every morning, I look forward to glancing at Dr. Ambedkar’s bust, in the far East corner of the Lehman Social Sciences Library, on my way to work. My eyes first rest on the bright garlands (offerings of admirers) that often adorn the bust, hanging around the neck, and then, unfailingly, go to the glasses carved in dark bronze (like the rest of the sculpture), almost indistinguishable from the broad face, but yet magnetically pulling my eyes in. I find myself drawn into the eyes of the “Father of the Constitution”, the “Doctor and Saint” or as people affectionately refer to him, Baba Saheb Ambedkar (1891-1956), and I unfailingly detect a subtle smile. I tried looking at the glasses, and the eyes, from different angles, and the smile is always there, barely perceptible, but definitely present. There is something slightly jolting, refreshing about this daily ritual: looking for that subtle grin has come to frame my mornings, and in fact, my whole experience of my working space, the Lehman Social Sciences Library. A grand library, designed like a “ship of state”, and part of the SIPA and Law School complex (–both designed by Max Abramovitz and Wallace Harrisonthe latter is known for leading an international team of architects on the design of  the United Nations Headquarters in NYC, and the former for designing the Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center –) the Lehman Social Sciences Library opened in the early 70s, and is often jokingly referred to by students as “the NASA Headquarters” or even  “the bunker from the cold war”, for its subterranean open aesthetics and its typical late 60s, early 70s look. That is very far from how I experience this space, and I just realized recently, it is in large part due to my daily anticipation of seeing that fleeting grin in the morning subterranean light of Lehman Library’s open skyline.

 

 

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Sorry, This Page Does Not Exist!: The Brazilian Presidential Transition (2018) Web Archive

The web lives in the present tense. But, as librarians understand all too well, scholarly research and knowledge production require sustainable long-term access and preservation of evidence that supports the deciphering and understanding of the world. The broken links we encounter throughout the web can signify the loss of important information, sometimes when it seems to matter the most. In addition, as those of us in global studies librarianship are especially well placed to appreciate, information that may not be congenial to those in power is especially vulnerable and the disappearance of opposing ideas and agendas can frame narratives and shape policies that reproduce and/or reinforce political control. Many important questions open up when we consider web archiving: How do we select and curate what to archive? What should be our thematic focus? What perspectives do we preserve? How do we achieve sustainability? What tools to use? Who can we partner with, as we take in the breathtaking magnitude of the task at hand? All of these questions are relevant to the aim of minimizing the negative impact of the number of instances of that dreaded message: “Sorry, this page does not exist!”

The Latin America Libraries of the North East Consortium (LANE) has had web archiving on its agenda for the past few years. However the thought of selecting content to preserve from the vast and inestimable world of the web often seemed daunting and intimidating.  In a collaborative setting where lots of good ideas surface but consensus is harder to achieve, focusing on a thematic collection would also prove to be a challenge. However as Latin Americanist librarians we know from decades of organizational efforts dedicated to collecting in the region that collaboration is key to successful outcomes.

This month, the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation launched the Brazilian Presidential Transition (2018) Web Archive, a collection built by the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation and member libraries of LANE with significant contributions from members of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM). The Archive consists of Brazilian government websites in the areas of human rights, the environment, LGBTQ issues, and culture, for the period following the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil on October 28, 2018, up to his inauguration on January 1, 2019. A timely and urgent collection borne out of Pasteur’s maxim, “In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.”

During a meeting I hosted at Columbia University Libraries in November 2017 I invited several speakers to talk about their work in web archiving. Alex Thurman and Samantha Abrams gave the group an overview of web archiving issues including global efforts to preserve a continuously vanishing landscape, the technology and infrastructure that currently supports preservation, the technical and ethical challenges of preserving spaces such as social media platforms and the workflows necessary for starting a web archiving project.

2017 LANE meeting at Columbia University

It was also important to hear from two Columbia colleagues who had already developed collections and thought through criteria for inclusion. Pamela Graham, who curates the Human Rights Web Archive and Christine Sala who curates the Avery Library Historic Preservation and Urban Planning Web Archive, spoke about developing collections, the process of selecting content, creating descriptive metadata for discovery, and potential use of these collections for future researchers.  What was particularly helpful about these talks was seeing how this new sphere of collecting could work in parallel with our established forms of collecting and how much the thinking process for selecting web content mirrors the collecting of traditional library material.  The 2017 meeting made web archiving accessible and ostensibly possible for the group.

While the group was determined to work on something, we had not reached a consensus on the content of the web archiving project yet. This had to wait another year, when the Fall LANE meeting was held at New York University in October of 2018. We were instructed by LANE chair Jill Baron (Dartmouth Library) to “come prepared with a topic idea we are passionate about, and be ready to convince others that the websites reflecting this topic necessitate collection and preservation action.”

The group brainstormed about any and all topics of interests and voted on four topics that we could focus our energies on. Small groups researched and compiled content for the four collections. Some of the topics didn’t yield the information we expected and one of the topics we worked on stood out for its immediacy, vulnerability, and relevance to collection priorities established by many in the group.

Our meeting took place a couple of weeks after Jair Bolsonaro had come in the first round of the Brazilian presidential election and a couple of days before he would go on to win the run-off election. Throughout his campaign Bolsonaro repeatedly made statements about his agenda and his vision for government that concerned academics, journalists and activists. LANE decided to prioritize Brazilian government websites in the areas of human rights, the environment, LGBTQ issues, and culture. We considered these sites to be vulnerable due to anticipated consolidation, elimination or defunding.

2018 LANE meeting at New York University

Over the next couple of months we researched state and federal government sites in the hopes of capturing as much as we could before Bolsonaro took power. Given the scope of the work and the size of Brazil as a country it was clear we needed help. LANE is a regional group under the umbrella of the Seminar for the Acquisition of Latin American Materials (SALALM) and we called on our colleagues for assistance and many of them graciously contributed some of their time to our effort. Our colleague Samantha Abrams, Ivy Plus Libraries Web Resources Collection Librarian worked diligently to capture the sites within a limited amount of time.

As the Brazilian specialist at the Library of Congress Talía Guzman-González has been instrumental to this project. LC archived the 2010 Brazilian election and this past election and Talía’s deep expertise in the region was particularly helpful. Metadata in a crowdsourced project requires some editorial cohesiveness and Talía, Jill and I led the effort to normalize subject headings, geographic descriptions and descriptive fields. The results of this work is a snapshot of government content before Bolsonaro took office, with the aim of preserving these important, but potentially ephemeral, documents for researchers and scholars.

We very much hope that this effort will inspire other collaborative web archiving projects, to preserve and provide continuous access to timely and important scholarly global content!

Sócrates Silva (2CUL Latin American and Iberian Studies Librarian)

Women and Gender Studies, Resources for International Research, and… Coffee! Find out more!

For the occasions of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th, I sat down with Sarah Witte, our Women & Gender Studies Librarian, and Yuusuf Caruso, our African Studies Librarian, and asked them about resources that the Columbia Libraries makes available to researchers interested in women and gender studies at the global level.

What are your recommended resources for getting started with research?

SARAH: Ebscohost Research Databases. “This is a platform of core subject databases, including Gender Studies Database, LGBT Life, Historical Abstracts, Index to Legal Periodicals, Anthropology Plus, Art Source, Film and Television Literature Index, ATLA Religion; as well as interdisciplinary databases focused on specific regions: Bibliography of Asian Studies, and Middle Eastern & Central Asian Studies, Africa Wide, and American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies. It is a resource for scholarly work on virtually any topic related to women, gender, sexuality and feminism, though the literature it indexes is primarily in English.”

YUUSUF emphasized the need to carry out research based on print and subscription-based holdings at the Libraries while supplementing them with open access research publications on gender and social equity, environmental sustainability, economic security, sustainable and ethical agriculture and trade, and the role of NGOs and grassroots movements. In addition to the EBSCO suite of index databases mentioned by Sarah, he cites the African Women’s  Bibliographic Database (Leiden);  online journals:  Feminist AfricaAgenda—a journal about women and gender;  and, New African woman ;  web sites:  CODESRIA-Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Dakar, Senegal), with over 230 online full texts on African women and agriculture; African Women’s Development Fund (Accra, Ghana);  Forum for African Women Educationalists (Nairobi, Kenya); and, Gender Links for Equality and Justice (Johannesburg, South Africa).  For historical research at Columbia on women, gender, and sexuality in Africa, see:  Gender and Sexuality in African History.

What new research interests and trends have you noticed in women’s and gender studies at Columbia, and what new or timely resources are available to researchers?

SARAH emphasized a number of areas of strong research interest at Columbia, including: national and transnational feminist movements, inter-generational trauma, menstrual health and justice, rights for sexual minorities, for diaspora and immigrant communities, to name a few. She also stressed the growing interest of researchers in alternative forms of documentation and grassroots testimony, including personal narratives, oral histories, letters, memoirs, film, art and literature.

Women and Social Movements, Modern Empires Since 1820, from Alexander Street Press is a new full-text database that seeks to explore themes in world history since 1820: conquest, colonization, settlement, resistance, and post-colonialism, through the voices of individual women.  It includes more than 50 curated document clusters organized by theme, time period and empire, including the Habsburg, Ottoman, the British, French, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Japanese, and United States Empires, and settler societies in the United States, New Zealand and Australia.  It includes a variety of sources: 93 issues of L’Egyptienne, an Egyptian feminist and nationalist journal published from 1925 to 1940, transcripts of interviews with women activists in South Africa, Guatemala, Romania, and the United States, manuscript letters in Arabic with English translations.  It is a companion database to Women and Social Movements International: 1840 to present, which focuses on international organizations.”

It is no secret that coffee, and agriculture in general, were a major factor in setting up colonies in East Africa. These excerpts are from: Farming and planting in British East Africa: a description of the leading agricultural centres and an account of agricultural conditions and prospects / compiled and edited by T.J. O’Shea, Nairobi : Newland, Tarlton & Co., Ltd., 1917.

YUUSUF: Stressing emerging areas of scholarly relevance, Yuusuf highlighted women’s development, labor movements, and gender-related social and economic justice movements in Africa.  Then noticing the cup of coffee I held in my hand, he smiled and said: “So for example, if you were interested in something as mundane as the provenance of that cup of coffee …and women’s roles in our world, assuming this is coffee imported from Africa,  you may want to consult a few recent publications for starters available in the Libraries, such as:  the 2018 Coffee Atlas of Ethiopia, which documents the sources of Ethiopia’s coffee production ;  A Good African Story, an incisive insider account of a successful African-owned coffee company in Uganda (the company’s website features articles and links to interviews about different aspects of the coffee business, including the role of women’s cooperatives);  a chapter on the same company in a 2018 book on Africapitalism: rethinking the role of business in Africa offers an analysis of the attempt to transform Uganda’s and even Africa’s role in the coffee industry—from being merely exporters of green beans to becoming exporters of high-quality roasted and packaged coffee that can be bought straight off shelves in Europe ; plus, two case studies:  Rita Verma’s Gender, land and livelihoods in East Africa: through farmers’ eyes and Kiah Smith’s Ethical trade, gender, and sustainable livelihoods: women smallholders and ethicality in Kenya,  which examine social and economic issues surrounding women and cash crop farming in post-colonial and 21st century Kenya.”

Yuusuf also had tips on how to conduct productive searches in the Library catalog and in other databases. One is that –because the issue of “women farmers” is often lumped in with that of agricultural development in general—there are few books with LC subject headings “women farmers” for African countries. Hence, the best search strategy might be to use “Women Agriculture [name of country]” as keywords in “all fields”.

There’s a lot to think about the next time you head out to grab that cup of coffee!

OLIVER “TUKU” MTUKUDZI, 1952-2019

Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi performing in 2018. Credit: Mário Pires.
Photo: Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi performing in 2018. Credit: Mário Pires. From African Arguments (UK).

Columbia University’s WWW-Virtual Library on “Tuku” 

African Arguments (UK): “Rest in power: Oliver Mtukudzi…,” by Rumbidzai Dube, January 25, 2019.

Afropop Worldwide (USA): “Remembering Oliver Mtukudzi,” by Banning Eyre. January 24, 2019 ; “Oliver Mtukudzi dies at 66,” January 23, 2019.

CNN Online News: “Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi: Healing a wounded nation through music.” (January 2013)

Mail & Guardian (South Africa): “Through upheaval and instability, we always had Oliver Mtukudzi,” January 24, 2019

Music.org.za: Mtukudzi, Oliver (Tuku), 2003 (Making Music Productions, South Africa)

National Public Radio (USA): “‘Left Alone’: Oliver Mtukudzi sees music as therapy.” (July 24, 2013)

BBC World Service, via YouTube.com: Oliver Mtukudzi’s “Neria,” September 2009.

YouTube.com: “Oliver Mtukudzi & Ladysmith Black Mambazo–“Neria”, June 2018 ; “Neria”, October 2009 ; “Todii,” February 2012 ; “Wasakara”, May 2011 ; “Ndakuvara”, September 2009 ; “Chiri Nani,” August 2009 ; “Ngoromera”, May 2009.

Mtukudzi in Columbia’s Library Catalog:

Oliver Mtukudzi : living Tuku music in Zimbabwe
Author: Kyker, Jennifer, 1979- Published: Bloomington, Indiana : Indiana University Press, [2016]

Tuku backstage : the first tell-all biography of the music, life and secrets of Oliver Mtukudzi
Author: Mutamba, Shepherd Published: Harare : Mhotsi Uruka, 2015.

Acoustic Africa [sound recording] : in concert
Published: Doische, Belgium : Contre Jour, p2011.

The culture of AIDS in Africa : hope and healing in music and the arts
Published: New York : Oxford University Press, c2011. –See also: E-Book version

Keeping the embers alive : musicians of Zimbabwe.
Author: Capp, Myrna Published: Trenton, NJ : Africa World Press, 2006.

Sounds of change : social and political features of music in Africa.
Published: Stockholm: Swedish Development Cooperation Agency, [2004]

African odyssey [sound recording]
Published: [S.l.] : Putumayo, p2001.

The Rough guide to the music of Zimbabwe [sound recording]
Published: London : World Music Network, pc1996.

Jit [videorecording]
Published: [Chicago, IL] : Home Vision, 1993.

Neria [videorecording]
Published: [Lexington, Ky. : Amazon.com.kydc., 2010?]

Mbira music [videorecording] : spirit of the people
Published: Princeton, NJ : Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 2006.

Africa [sound recording] : 50 years of music : 50 years of independence = Afrique : 50 ans de musique : 50 ans d’indepéndances
Published: [Paris?] : Discograph, p2010.

See also: “Music of Zimbabwe” [Subject]

100th Anniversary of Birth of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela & Barack Obama’s 2018 Mandela Lecture

For 20 years, one popular feature of Columbia University Libraries’ virtual library for
“African Studies Internet Resources” has been and continues to be a list of web links to reliable information about famous people of African descent, past and present.  This month marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the much celebrated South African, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.  A list of annotated links on Mandela are posted on library web pages for “African Biography on the Internet” -and- “South Africa–Culture, History, & Languages”.  Included in this updated list are web sites or pages in honor of this year’s 100th anniversary and on “Mandela Day”, which is observed in South Africa every year on July 18th….as well as a link to the full text transcript of the16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture delivered on July 17, 2018 by former US President Barack Obama, at the Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, sponsored by The Nelson Mandela Foundation.

See Columbia’s library holdings: About Nelson Mandela and Mandela, the author;
About Barack Obama and Obama, the author

Columbia Acquires “Annual Departmental Reports Relating to Nigeria and the British Cameroons, 1887-1962”

Columbia University Libraries’ has just acquired a searchable online version of the British Colonial Office’s “Annual Departmental Reports Relating to Nigeria and the British Cameroons, 1887-1962.”  

As part of their series “British Online Archives”, Microform Academic Publishers is making available a digitized version of the microfilmed administrative records on colonial Nigeria and Cameroon. The collection is “..divided between ten headings: Administration, Finance, Judicial and Police, Natural Resources, Social Services, Transport and Public Works, Communications and Post Office Savings, Commerce, Miscellaneous, and reports relating to the British Cameroons.”

This collection is also available on microfilm through interlibrary loan for all Columbia affiliates from The Center for Research Libraries (Chicago), see: http://catalog.crl.edu/record=b1922197~S1

Please send comments to Dr. Yuusuf Caruso, African Studies Librarian, Columbia University, at: caruso@columbia.edu

African Studies WWW-Virtual Library Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Columbia University sponsors the most detailed, comprehensive guide on “African Studies Internet Resources” available anywhere.  Frequently updated, this resource is celebrating its 20th anniversary during the academic year 2017-2018 as the official WWW-Virtual Library for African Studies.

Open access electronic resources from Africa are organized by region and country. All materials are arranged to encourage an awareness of authorship, type of information, and subject. The selection criteria for the collection is research-oriented, but it also provides access to other web sites with different or broader missions.

The site includes links to: Africana library catalogs and archives ; African art and archaeology ; African languages ; African literature ; African studies programs and Universities in Africa ; Business and economic information on Africa ; Climate and environment in Africa ; Electronic newspapers from Africa ; Energy in Africa ; Films from and about Africa  ; Health information on Africa ; Human rights in Africa ; Maps of Africa Religion in Africa ; and much more.

Another demonstration of its scope and precision are selected links to breaking and current news analysis from and about every country on the continent.  Some examples are selections on Democratic Republic of Congo (2018) ; Nigeria (2018-2019) ; Kenya (2017-2018) ; and Zimbabwe (2017-2018), where recent political crises and elections since mid-2017 have drawn wide international attention.

 

South & Southeast Asia Columbia Libraries Newsletter Launched

The first issue of a South & Southeast Asia, Columbia University Libraries Newsletter has been launched. Those interested in subscribing to future newsletter mailings, and in viewing archived newsletters, can visit the following link. The newsletter will provide periodic updates of South/Southeast Asia library acquisitions and developments at Columbia University Libraries.

Colonial Law in Africa — New Online Primary Resource at Columbia

Columbia University Libraries has acquired a new online primary resource:

Colonial Law in Africa: African Government Gazettes, 1808-1919 and 1920-1945

An extensive collection of “digitized” legal records on British colonial African territories, covering the 19th and 20th centuries, selected from the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and part of the “British Online Archives” series from Microform Academic Publishers.

Columbia faculty, students, and other library patrons with borrowing privileges, can now access the first two parts of this collection of government gazettes and legal notices which are relevant to research on the impact of the Napoleonic Wars, the Boer War, the First World War, the abolition of the legal status of slavery, the transfer of Southern Rhodesia from the British South Africa Company to formal colonial rule, the impact of the Treaty of Versailles on Tanganyika and Zanzibar, and on British colonial policies during the Second World War throughout Africa.

Part I: 1808-1919

Part II: 1920-1945

*NOTE: This collection complements the British colonial “African Blue Books, 1821-1953.” ; as well as, “Retrospective Government Gazettes” of South Africa, 1910-1993