Willimantic, Conn. — Eastern Connecticut State University’s University Hour series brought a number of interesting speakers to campus in November.
On Nov. 2, artists Isolina Limonta and Jose Rodriguez spoke about multi-cultural art in their presentation called “Creating Art about the Sacred and the Sublime.”
Limonta resides in Havana, Cuba, where she is known as one of the most successful artists of her generation. She’s also a member of the oldest, most prestigious printmaking workshop in Cuba.
Rodriguez, a New York-based artist, discussed his works that relate to Puerto Rican, Cuban and Japanese cultures. He also talked about how he views art and its creative process.
“As artists, we made the invisible, visible. We work with the imagination. Einstein tells us that imagination is more important than knowledge, because knowledge is limited to all that we know and understand,” said Rodriguez.
On Nov. 9, the documentary film which is narrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, “Yemanja: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil,” took place in the Student Center Theater. The documentary is about the Candomblé religion in Bahia, Brazil, which evolved from the days of enslaved Africans. Women leaders shared stories of Candomblé’s history, social challenges and triumphs.
Candomblé is known as the religion of nature with one of its deities being Yemanjá, the Goddess of the Sea. Candomblé religion’s largest presence is in Salvador, which is being plagued by unsustainable development and where the religion is at risk. “When I think of a river I think of a goddess. Why would we want to defile a goddess?” said videographer and photographer Gerald Lee Hoffman. The film aims to challenge viewers’ values and relationships with the natural world to see if sustainability can be achieved.
On Nov. 16, Semahagn Abebe, a Scholar in Residence at the University of Connecticut’s Human Rights Institute, discussed his experiences of persecution by the Ethiopian government and his concern about the violation of human rights.
Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism proclamation of 2009 is the most frequently used law to attack freedom of expression. “One of the broadly defined concepts that the proclamation speaks to is what constitutes ‘encouragement of terrorism.’ Individuals who merely speak about any of the terrorist acts could be convicted for encouraging terrorism, and sentenced to 10 to 20 years of ‘rigorous imprisonment,’” said Abebe.
In September 2016, the regime in Ethiopia declared a state of emergency. “Diplomats are not permitted to travel outside of the country. Also they took away the right of protestors or any rights for newspapers to release stories,” said Abebe.