Africa at Noon: Transcendent Kingdom Flash Talks

September 17, 2021

Last Wednesday, the UW-Madison African Studies Program hosted a series of flash talks around the themes and issues addressed in this year’s Go Big Read book, Transcendent Kingdom, as a part of their Africa at Noon Lecture Series. The speakers for this event included Ainehi Edoro (English), Yaa Oparebea Ampofo (Educational Policy Studies), Unifier Tshimangadzo Dyer (African Cultural Studies), and Sandra Adell (Afro-American Studies). Each speaker addressed themes and topics from the book that stood out to them. 

Ainehi Edoro

In her flash talk, Edoro discussed how fiction and books serve as “moral vitamins,” and how in the context of Transcendent Kingdom, this moral vitamin works through the use of the binaries that Gyasi presents throughout the book. Edoro focused specifically on a section of the book near the beginning, where Gifty is talking about viewing a madman in a market in Kejetia, Ghana and her depressed mother in Huntsville, Alabama as a “split screen” binary. In this scene, Gifty is noting the differences between the two different iterations of “madness,” while also noticing their similarities, stating that the madman was wild on the outside, her mother was wild on the inside. Edoro concluded her talk by noting that binaries can help us understand and conceptualize chaos, and it is through Gifty’s constructions of her own binaries that we, as readers, can understand and empathize with the chaos Gifty is trying to work through in her own life. 

Yaa Oparebea Ampofo

Yaa Oparebea Ampofo addressed the relationship and tension that Gifty experiences with her faith, whether it is her faith in science or her faith in god. Oparebea Ampofo pointed out that Gifty’s relationship with faith, in regard to both science and religion, is one that Gifty must reconcile for herself. 

Unifier Tshimangadzo Dyer

Unifier Tshimangadzo Dyer touched on different ideas that recurred throughout the book, including grief, touch, and absence. She described grief as a relatable, portal language, and explored the recurrence of touch throughout the book, such as the hands of those in church when Gifty was saved, the touch of Nana and Gifty when trying to save a wounded bird, and Gifty when she is comforting her mother. 

Sandra Adell

Sandra Adell took a different approach with her flash talk by grounding how depression is seen in the black community, specifically in regard to black women. Adell talked about the Superwoman myth that is present in the black community, in which depression is a luxury that black women do not have the time or extra bandwidth to experience, and how this idea is communicated through how Gifty’s mother views her own depression

To see other events in the Africa at Noon Lecture Series, check out the African Studies Program website. If you would like to watch the flash talks from today’s lecture event, visit the African Studies Program’s YouTube page

Interested in other Go Big Read related events? Check out other events happening on the UW-Madison events page, under the “Go Big Read” tag.

Olivia Poches

Graduate Assistant, Go Big Read Program