KAB18 Symposium – The Light


Curated by Simon Njami,
in partnership with International Universities.

We are going to attempt to resurrect the notion of the university that at its origin designates an assembly or a corporation of masters and students. This community had then no other aim but access to knowledge. At the heart of this tacit agreement is the transmission of experiences both theoretical and practical. Cognition is never an extrinsic thing, illuminating us through some supernatural process. It is also recognition, of that which, without knowing or conceptualizing, is already buried within. It is what Levinas termed Light: “The Light that permits encountering something other than the self, as if it came from within the self. The Light, the brightness, is intelligibility itself; making everything come from me, it reduces every experience to an element of reminiscence. Reason is alone. And in this sense, knowledge never really encounters anything veritably other in the world.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Time and The Other, PUF, Paris, 2009)

To this aforementioned Otherness, which has become the key to the university system the world over, which is nothing other than a means of survival and selection, we oppose the word education.

What we mean by education, which directly refers to the etymology of the word, is “the action of drawing out.” To go out of oneself, in a way, by envisaging a world vaster than the one usually proposed. The symposium will take the form of an informal banquet, such as those had in ancient Greece. We are far from desiring the uniformization of theories on the subject, but rather an evocation that allows for certain tools to be pertinent, outside of a specific context, far from any supposed objectivity: “The objectivity of rational knowledge takes nothing away from the solitary nature of reason. The possible reversal of objectivity to subjectivity is the very theme of idealism that is a philosophy of reason. The objectivity of light is subjectivity itself. Any object can be spoken of in terms of consciousness, that is, put to light.” (Emmanuel Levinas, p.48)

Hence the importance, so that experience makes sense and leads to materiality, to not limit oneself to the “specialists of speciality,” but to open the debate to the largest number of actors possible among which, naturally, female and male politicians, social actors, academics and professionals of all sorts. How to reestablish a community based on the quest for knowledge, exchange and experience? Knowledge, la connaissance, is an encounter. In the French language, one can, by playing with words, give it the meaning “born with,” in other words, yet again, to share a common experience. And what better, to establish this community, than a banquet in the manner of ancient Greece?

Simon Njami

Call for papers & Registration of Participants

National and International Universities / Museums/ Art Schools with a standing reputation in arts and cultural studies are called for papers and asked to delegate participants and speakers to the Symposium.

The Symposium, titled ‘The Light’ will take place on the 26th of August in the week of the KAB18 opening. The Call for Papers is now out, please follow this link to submit a paper.

International Universities that want to attend the symposium can also email their papers to KAB18@kampalabiennale.org.  Your paper submission will go through a selection process and if successful, you will be invited to participate in the KAB18 Symposium. Please note that Kampala Biennale is not able to facilitate your travel and expenses to the event, hence we request you to look for your own means to fund your attendance.