SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar awarded AHRC grant to explore history of internal slavery in Mali through graphic novel and animation film

19 February 2019

Dr Marie Rodet, Senior Lecturer in the History of Africa at SOAS University of London, has been awarded £100k by the AHRC Antislavery Knowledge Network to lift the taboo of internal slavery in West Africa

The project will capitalize on historical resistance against slavery in Kayes, Mali to produce resources about human rights, citizenship and social justice, to raise awareness among young generations about the importance of fighting against all forms of discrimination and exploitation, including modern slavery.


Above: Dr Rodet and the the project team with Bouillagui's villagers

It is a joint project with Donkosira, a Malian NGO working on the dissemination of local community knowledge in West Africa, which will create a graphic novel, an animation, a website and a mobile app with Malian villagers and schoolchildren on the history of their village, Bouillagui, which was funded by formerly enslaved communities following a rebellion against former slave masters in the Kayes region, Mali, in the 1910s.

Dr Rodet said: “Today the history of internal slavery is still a taboo subject in West Africa. Despite this. my research has shown that there is demand from local communities in Kayes to know and understand better this complicated past, especially as populations of slave descent are still discriminated against and stigmatized in Mali today. They are amongst the most vulnerable to economic uncertainties, and thus subjected to further exploitation, including modern forms of slavery.”

“The timing is particularly crucial as Mali has been encountering a deep political, economic and social crisis for almost one decade now, a situation which risks increasing further discrimination and exploitation of already marginalized communities, as recently demonstrated by the heightened violence encountered by descendants of enslaved populations in the Kayes region.”

By making stories of little-known historical resistance against slavery in their own communities into digital and artistic forms, the project aims for villagers to be recognized as knowledge producers in their own rights and thus producers of long-term solutions for their own community to tackle marginalization and exploitation, including modern slavery.

The Antislavery Knowledge Network (AKN), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of its Network Plus call under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), offers the first extended effort to address slavery as a core development challenge in sub-Saharan Africa via innovative approaches from the arts and humanities that deliver community-engaged antislavery work.