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‘Best of the best’ — stakeholders celebrate Bolanle Awe, feminist history pioneer, at 90

‘Best of the best’ — stakeholders celebrate Bolanle Awe, feminist history pioneer, at 90
February 13
23:29 2023

Stakeholders within and outside the academia, on Monday, celebrated Bolanle Awe, a renowned professor of history, who recently clocked 90.

The event was part of activities of a conference organised in her honour, and which held at the University of Ibadan.

The two-day conference, which began on Monday, was organised by the University of Texas, University of Lagos, and the University of Ibadan, and has the theme: ‘Oral Traditions and Written Histories’.

Toyin Falola of the University of Texas, Olufunke Adeboye of the University of Lagos, Rasheed Olaniyi of the University of Ibadan, and Sharon Omotoso, also of the University of Ibadan, were the conveners of the conference.

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In his remarks at the Monday session, Falola praised Awe for her significant contribution to scholarship within and outside Africa.

“At the time when she was born, Africans still suffered the stigma that they were intellectually inferior to the extent that they were considered subhuman and could not understand the gravity of intellectualism, much less talk of contributing to the debate,” Falola said.

“More realistically, it was a time when the European-induced African patriarchy was taking the honour of the period, thereby suppressing the voices of female scholars in a desperate attempt to keep the oppressive culture. This again indicates that the position of Awe against this system required confidence and determination.

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“In essence, her efforts to enhance Afrocentric ideas in the knowledge domain were targeted at fighting different battles, all of which were critically important and situationally necessary to redeem African images.

“On the intellectual front, she corrected the erroneous notions that Africans did not have recordable history, projected by a chain of European generations who even manipulated scientific evidence to substantiate their racist claim.

“On the other side, she was also creating a passageway for the females to come into the system so that they would correct the wrong values carefully instituted by the Europeans and their African allies after independence.

“One cannot look at what she has done and have the moral courage to say that she does not deserve whatever honour we have rendered today and every other day.”

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Kayode Adebowale, vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan, spoke on Awe’s position as a pioneer of feminist history.

“With her focus on women, women’s rights, and women’s capacities, Professor Awe led the nation, the continent, and the world at large to an altar of enlightenment about the meaning of gender justice and gender equity,” Adebowale said.

“Through her work and those of her mentees, the dignity of women experienced a rebirth. Realising the dearth of resources to research on women, she mobilised people and resources to create the Women Research and Documentation Centre (WORDOC) at the University of Ibadan.

“The world would later realise that there is really nothing like women’s rights or women’s issues in the strict sense of that expression. Anyone fighting for the rights and privileges of women is actually fighting for the rights of humanity at large.

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“It is now generally understood that gender issues are not women’s issues; rather gender justice is about removing all obstacles standing in the way of, and preventing people from, realising their full potentials as men and women in the society. It is all about emancipation.”

Also present at the event was Bisi Fayemi, wife of Kayode Fayemi, the former governor of Ekiti, who described Awe as “the best of the best”.

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“She is an acclaimed scholar, author, teacher, development specialist, administrator, leader, and mentor. The list of her achievements is endless, and she has a solid legacy of excellence as evidenced in everything she has been involved in throughout her illustrious career,” Fayemi added.

“When Yoruba people use the word ‘Omoluabi’, its loose translation is meant to be ‘a person of honour and character’, yet we are socialised into believing that the translation means ‘a perfect gentleman’, because the word is most often used in describing men who meet the criteria.

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“Professor Bolanle Awe is the quintessential ‘Omoluabi’ whose name, character and conduct has been nothing less than extraordinary.”

In her remarks, the renowned professor expressed her appreciation to the organisers and attendees for the efforts put into the conference.

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Awe clocked 90 on January 28.

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