By Skylar Cohen
As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, the Center of African Studies (CAS) unveiled an image gallery on Thursday depicting members of the CAS community. The unveiling was accompanied by a reception in the CAS and the adjoining courtyard known as “HOME: Solace, Strength, Community.”
The event is part of a larger series being held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of CAS, which will continue until the spring. A previous event in the series was held in the fall; those present at that event were invited to participate in a photography shoot and asked to write words relating to their view of CAS on their arms before being photographed.
The resulting photographs were used to build the gallery unveiled on Thursday, and the images will remain on the walls of the Center for the rest of the year. Tisay Yusuf ’18 was one of the individuals photographed and described the experience as a memorable one.
“It was just a really happy, wonderful time — people were writing on their arms, and just diving deep into what CAS means to them, so it was really beautiful,” Yusuf said.
The idea for the gallery originated with two alumnae: Atheel Elmalik ’15 and Alex Nana-Sinkam B.A. ’13 M.A. ’14. Nana-Sinkam served as the photographer who generated the images used. Elmalik says that the project was an effort to represent CAS in a distinctive manner.
“The idea really came from the thought of how we can collectively represent the community that we have,” Elmalik said. “Because I think the Center is very different than most of [the] other spaces around campus, and [it is important] to have a visual representation of what that value is to individuals is what we were thinking of [as a goal].”
Appetizers and live entertainment were both provided. Midway through the event, Elmalik and associate director of CAS Laura Hubbard gave brief speeches to mark the occasion. Elmalik remembered the first assignment she completed for CAS, and Hubbard explained the concepts that the images in the gallery evoked for her.
“I think when you feel the full sense of all of these images, of faculty, students, staff, writing things like ‘home’ and ‘power’ and ‘strength’ and ‘wholeness,’ it just says something very special about what’s possible in spaces tucked in the corner of a campus,” Hubbard said in an interview prior to the speech.
Elmalik suggests that a great amount of effort goes into building a strong community within the CAS and that the success of Thursday’s event was driven by that effort.
“[The success of our events] is not just a thing that happens,” Elmalik said. “Other places sometime ask us ‘how do you guys do that?’ It’s so much work — it’s caring on a very deep level about people not just as intellectuals, but about their personal lives, about how their personal [and] political lives intersect.”
Contact Skylar Cohen at skylarc ‘at’ stanford.edu.