Goddard professor to explore ‘Aesthetics of Funk’ at National Endowment of Humanities Institute

News Release — Goddard College
June 4, 2014

Kevin Ellis, Ellis-Mills Public Affairs
[email protected]; 802.371-8112

Plainfield, VT – H. Sharif Williams, a professor and chair of the Goddard College Faculty Council, has been accepted as a participant in the National Endowment of the Humanities three-week summer institute exploring “Black Aesthetics and African Centered Cultural Expressions” at Emory University in July.

Dr. Williams, who is also known as “Dr. Herukhuti” (based upon a name he was given when initiated into an African priesthood) is a cultural studies scholar, social justice activist, and sex researcher, as well as a published poet and playwright; two of his plays have been performed at the New York International Fringe Theatre Festival. He studied with renowned Brazilian theater director Augusto Boal, The Theatre of the Oppressed Laboratory and Chris Vine in Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed.

According to Dr. R. Candy Tate, of the Emory College Center for Creativity and Arts, only 25 participants were chosen for the institute from a field of more than 140. She said the purpose of the summer program is “to create a type of ‘think tank’ to develop critical language for the 21st century to describe Black aesthetics in the Arts.” Distinguished faculty at the institute, she said, include Paul Carter Harrison, the award-winning playwright, director and theater theorist; film scholar Matthew Bernstein; and composer and jazz theoretician Dwight Andrews.

Dr. Herukhuti will use the time at the institute to explore Theatre of the Oppressed applications of Funk ­­­– a term applied to a genre of Black music beginning in the late 1960s, but which has taken on larger cultural meaning – as an aesthetic and as a tradition. He said his work at the institute would help him prepare for a collaborative teaching project that he is starting with colleagues this fall, which they hope will result in an original student performance. It will also help him refine a one-man show which he debuted at Goddard, “Conjuring Black Funk: The Life of a Revolutionary Scholar.”

Dr. Herukhuti’s participation in the NEH conference is “another example of cutting-edge work that Goddard students and faculty are known for,” said Steven E. James, Dean and Chief Academic Officer at Goddard. “The inter-disciplinary nature of his work speaks to the creative nature of our practices, and to the fulfillment of our expectations for ourselves and each other educationally.”

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