Public Health Seminar Series:

Preserving African Commemorative Fabrics: Implications for Social Understanding and Public Health by EMILIE SONGOLO

CO-SPONSOR: GHREAT - The Global Health Research Education and Translation program at the University of California, Irvine. Learn more at:

Monday, November 23, 2015 12:00pm - 1:00pm Calit2 Auditorium OCW Video Archive
Seminar Abstract

Commemorative fabrics express a variety of messages on a wide scale, from remembering the life of a beloved historical figure, advertising a political candidate or a product, congratulating someone on their graduation, to celebrating a country's independence. While they serve the everyday purpose of clothing, rags, or swaddling, commemorative fabrics also act as vehicles of a message within a given community. However, due to everyday wear and tear, these messages can be lost or forgotten. Digitization, then, allows us to preserve these messages, and to render them accessible to a wider community through open access. In her presentation, Emilie will discuss the history of these fabrics, the aesthetic qualities, family connections, sustainable development and their function in society before exploring their scholarly use and effectiveness in interdisciplinary teaching and research. She will also discuss the curating, preservation, digitization of these important materials.

Speaker Biography - EMILIE SONGOLO

EMILIE SONGOLO Senior Academic Librarian, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Emilie currently works at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as Senior Academic Librarian for Social Science, African Studies, and Francophone Studies. She has served on many university committees. She enjoys campus, local, national and international renown thanks to her dedicated work in librarianship, African and Area studies, and her community service. She currently serves on the University of Wisconsin Press Committee. She is also Chair of the Africana Librarians’ Council Title 6 group, former Chair of the Africana Librarian’s Council, former President of the African Women’s Association of Madison. She has mentored many UW staff, students and many children and adults in the community. She is the recipient of multiple awards including the UW-Madison Academic Staff Assembly Commendation for Outstanding Service in the Community, the Dr. Brenda Pfaehler Award of Excellence, and the UW-Madison Librarian of the Year. And now the 2015 UW-Madison Outstanding Woman of Color Award. She has published on women in African cinema, and is working on a documentary and a book on African commemorative fabrics. She is also working, in collaboration with on an essay on the history of African Studies collections at UW-Madison. Emilie moved to UW-Madison from UC-Irvine in 1991. She was the Africana Librarian at UC-Berkeley in 2006. She is married and the mother of three children between the ages of 25 and 17. She is also a cooking enthusiast. One of her signature dishes called Poulet Moambe (chicken in peanut stew) has been on the UW-Madison Catering menu for several years with rave reviews. Emilie’s love for storytelling had led her to begin collecting commemorative fabrics from African. She donated her personal collection to UW-Madison in order to preserve these fabrics that she calls historical documents. Others have been adding to this collection that the UW Digital Collections Center is digitizing for a database called Images of Commemorative Fabrics from Africa. A native of Cameroon, Emilie came to the US 29 years ago after her BA in French and English from the University of Yaoundé on a fellowship at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. While at Mount Holyoke, she taught French, prepared for admission into library school. From there she went to UCLA where she earned her Master’s in Library and Information Science.

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