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Sunshine and Foliage Welcome Families

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, video

 

Slide Show from Fall Family Weekend:

Watch Debora Spar’s talk on her book, “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection”

As sunlight glowed on the reds, yellows, and oranges of Vermont’s fall foliage season, an estimated 1500 family members enjoyed activities, both indoors and out, during Middlebury College’s 2013 Fall Family Weekend, Oct. 10-13. It was a glorious autumn weekend in the Champlain Valley and just about everything went as planned.

A standing-room-only audience came to hear Debora Spar, the president of Barnard College and parent of a current Middlebury student, speak about her new book “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.” Parents had a lively give-and-take with President Liebowitz in the McCullough Student Center, and attended panel discussions on study abroad, putting passion into action, and careers in finance for liberal arts graduates. There was a breathtaking contemporary dance performance by faculty member Catherine Cabeen and her company, Hyphen, and a leadership workshop for families conducted by MiddCORE faculty members Jessica Holmes and Mike Kiernan.

There was a host of outdoor activity all weekend including tours and treats at the college’s Organic Farm, the marathon reading of “The Iliad” on the steps of Davis Family Library, and home athletic events in men’s and women’s soccer, football, rugby, volleyball, and field hockey. Also this year there was an open house at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, which included live music, a barbeque, and chairlift rides to the summit of Worth Mountain where, as expected on this near-perfect weekend, the views in every direction were spectacular.

Angelique Kidjo Dazzling and Thought Provoking in Concert, Lecture

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, video
Singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo performs at Middlebury College's Nelson Arena
Angelique Kidjo performs at Nelson Recreation Center Oct. 3.
Highlights from Angelique Kidjo’s talk for the John Hamilton Fulton Lecture in the Liberal Arts. The full talk can be seen here 
Concert photos by Brett Simison:

Concert Video Clips from MiddBeat

When she was a young girl, West African singer, songwriter, and social activist Angelique Kidjo wanted to be James Brown. This was probably not the only factor distinguishing Kidjo from other accomplished people invited to give the John Hamilton Lecture in the Liberal Arts at Middlebury.

Kidjo has long been the most recognizable face of contemporary African music, creating from such influences as traditional African sounds, Latin, jazz, rhythm and blues, Ravel, Beethoven, souk, Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, and yes, James Brown. She has eleven albums, international accolades—“The Undisputed Queen of African Music,” “Africa’s premier diva”—and a Grammy Award to show for it. But she also uses her voice to call for justice, to promote action, and to encourage her audiences worldwide to find strength in who they are, no matter who they are.

At her Fulton Lecture on October 2 in McCullough Social Space, Kidjo spoke about her life, her art, the wisdom of her parents, politics, African history, and humanitarian service with Assistant Professor of Music Damascus Kafumbe, a Ugandan ethnomusicologist and musician. Kafumbe wisely prompted Kidjo with selected questions from faculty members and then let the guest be her feisty, hilarious, inspiring self in delivering the answers. Several times during the conversation, recordings of Kidjo’s music filled the McCullough Social Space, giving the audience a chance to hear her distinctive work. As one of those recordings played the classic love song “Malaika,” Kafumbe was heard saying softly, “I first heard that song when I was nine years old.”

Kidjo has been performing professionally since she was a school girl—her father made sure she stayed in school—and had enough of a public profile that when her native Benin was taken over by a Marxist coup in 1972, and the new leaders wanted prominent artists to promote the regime, she exiled herself to Paris. Fourteen years later, she moved to New York City, where she and her family have lived since.

Kidjo detailed her artistic process—sometimes she wakes in the middle of the night with a song that she records on her iPhone, which she doesn’t remember in the morning. “You don’t know when inspiration comes; you have to grab it.  I’m at the service of my inspiration,” she said.  Artists can’t stay comfortable: “You got to put yourself in question all the time. It’s about learning. If you’re too sure of what you’re doing, you learn nothing anymore.” She finds inspiration everywhere. Her song, “Agolo,” a wake-up call to protect the Earth, was inspired by the frequency and capacity of the garbage truck that came to her house in France. (“Without Mother Earth, there is no humanity. Period.”) She has written songs to bring the stories of refugees and AIDS orphans to public attention. (One of her songs, “You Can Count On Me,” provides a tetanus shot for an African mother every time it’s downloaded.)

Kidjo’s nickname in her village was “When Why How” —no surprise after hearing her forceful opinions of male control over women and of Western control over Africa. Asked by Kafumbe how she felt being one of the most well known people from a continent usually characterized by war, poverty, and corruption, she responded, “Well, people are stupid enough to think that Africa as a continent only has one story to tell. The danger of the single story defines all of us.” She continued, explaining how biblical stories of male dominion still keeps men in power, able to persist in forced marriage and female genital mutilation; how the Western colonizers’ stories of African inferiority allowed them to commit the crimes of slavery. Later she added, “We Africans have to learn to tell our story. We can’t keep blaming other people for telling our story because we don’t do it ourselves.”

As for outsiders’ views of Africa, Kidjo was blunt: “I say every time I’m in front of any leader, ‘I don’t care who you are, if you tell me ever that the leaders of Africa are corrupt, I say “who’s sleeping in the same bed with them?”’  She continued,

“The interest today for the rich countries is to keep Africa the way it is because if we start really developing, they have a problem.”  She invoked several of the African nationalist leaders assassinated in the 1960s by western-led coups. “Kwame Nkrumah [Ghana] was killed for that; Lamumba [Congo] was killed for that.

Many Africans have died because they said ‘We need our money to resist, we need to fix the price of raw materials, we need to be independent…’all those who stood up that way have been killed. And they would do it again.” Widespread rape in the Congo, she said, is ignored because industrialized countries want Congo’s minerals such as coltan for cell phones and other electronics.

Linking her social advocacy to her music comes naturally, she told Kafumbe and the crowd, in part because African history is traditionally oral. And although she has seen terrible suffering since starting her travels as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador a decade ago, what keeps her going is her music and how it connects with others. “Always I feel the resilience and the power of the people,” she said.

When asked her final question, “What should we walk away with,” Kidjo was emphatic. “Be proud of who you are. And whatever you do, do it with your heart. We are capable of moving mountains. Only fear is holding us back from achieving more. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

At the concert in Nelson Recreation Center the following night, the Middlebury community got another chance to see what being Angelique Kidjo means. Dynamic and dazzling, perfectly synched with her fellow musicians drawn from New York, Senegal, and Paris, she created a spectrum of vocals while dancing on the stage and through the crowd. In her songs and in between them, this small and powerful woman brought her message to the hundreds dancing and listening: Look for ways to overcome your differences—it’s hard, and it’s worth it. Be yourself. Life is joyful. And when she brought students onstage to dance, and to take solo dance breaks to the drumming of the djembe, you knew she was right.

Midd and MIIS Experts Join Forces for Translation Symposium

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Middlebury students tried their hand at simultaneous interpretation in a booth at the Mahaney Center for the Arts,
with coaching from Monterey faculty.

You’re translating right now. We do it all the time, unconsciously—from visual to oral, from one person’s sensibilities to another’s. Then there are those who do it professionally, across cultures and eras. Without them treaties couldn’t be negotiated, business would hit bottlenecks, and great literature would be fettered to an author’s language.

This year, Middlebury’s Clifford Symposium focused on that complex world of translation and translators. “Translation in A Global Community: Theory and Practice” put a new twist on the fall tradition of the Clifford Symposium by bringing together faculty both from Middlebury’s language programs and from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, which is known worldwide for its translation and interpretation programs. Keynote speaker Professor David Bellos, director of Princeton’s Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication, acknowledged the particular suitability of the topic by noting he was speaking from “the beating heart of language teaching in North America.”

Before Bellos began his talk, audience members were offered headphones to listen to his address interpreted in Chinese—two Monterey graduates were visible onstage in a professional interpretation booth, poised to do the job for both Middlebury and Monterey listeners. The booth and the varied interpreters within were a feature of the three-day symposium, and students conversant in other languages were invited to try their hand interpreting at a special Friday morning session (see video).

Bellos, an Englishman who also teaches French and comparative literature at Princeton, and who won the first Man Booker International Prize for translation in 2005, gave an often-humorous account of the judgment calls good translators must make for the sake of an author, a work, and readers. In the course of translating Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret detective novelettes from French to English, Bellos knew he wanted to keep the page-turning dynamics of the originals while helping current readers move smoothly through some of the extinct conventions of the author’s 1931 France. For example, Simenon’s view of Eastern Europe approximated the famous 1976 New Yorker cover “View of the World from Ninth Avenue,” in which the Pacific Ocean washes onto Kansas, about two blocks from New Jersey. This isolationism was common in Simenon’s France; with today’s travel and communication, conflating Latvia and Lithuania would be considered ignorant, and Detective Maigret was not. Likewise, the foods, fabrics, technologies, and police hierarchies have changed. Bellos explained, “A translation is an invention of something. There’s no one right solution. But you have to be consistent.” Using experience, an ear for tone, and sources such as old French dictionaries and trademark records to make his decisions, Bellos still expects e-mails from “persnickety readers,” and said, “If I get attacked for a clumsy translation, at least I’d have a learned answer.”

Translation involves art, Bellos suggested, and other sessions throughout the symposium looked at additional angles: whether everything is translatable, whether translation is a political act, and how interested students could find careers using their language skills. For those who choose to follow that path, Kawashima Professor of Japanese Studies Stephen Snyder, one of the symposium’s organizers, shared his view: “Translation is one of the fundamental underpinnings of [global relations], to think about how languages are learned, to think about who provides communication between cultural spheres.”

The annual Clifford Symposium is named after College Professor of History Emeritus Nicholas R. Clifford, who taught history at the college from 1966 to 1993 and who in his many years as a member of the faculty and administration cultivated critical inquiry.

Welcoming First-Years on Move-in Day

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It’s a scene almost as familiar as Old Chapel itself: First-year students and their families pulling up to Battell Hall after a long drive, nervous and excited, ready to dive into life at Middlebury. We caught a few of these scenes as the Class of 2017 arrived.

Summer Scene: First Look at InSite

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Nearly 100 Middlebury students  had a hand in planning, designing, and building InSite, the college’s entry in the 2013 Solar Decathlon competition. This weekend the public will get their first look at the results of all that work as the team hosts an open house in their newly finished home before they ship it out to California. We met with some of the team leaders this week for a sneak preview.

Summer Scene: Life in Two Languages

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There’s never a dull moment for Middlebury Language Schools bilingual assistants — even if at times they might wish for a few. On any given day, they’re planning special events, coaching sports, setting up concerts, or solving myriad problems that help students stick to the famous language pledge: No English Spoken Here!  And through all of it, they transition seamlessly between the school’s language and English (where allowed, of course). Middlebury Magazine caught up with Joe Tamagni, a bilingual for the Italian School, to get a taste of his hectic pace and why he loves it so much!

Summer Scene: Campus Beauty

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Middlebury’s fickle summer weather is captured dramatically — and beautifully — in this time lapse of campus scenes. This is a debut piece for Matt Lennon ’13, who recently joined the college communications office as a graduate intern.