What you need to know:
- Acclaimed Ethiopian novelist Maaza Mengiste will be the main speaker at the 8th Annual Pluralism Lecture.
- The theme of Ms Mengiste’s lecture is: “The Moment of Encounter: History, Disruptions, and Transformations.”
At 7pm on Wednesday, a virtual lecture, a must-watch for anyone passionate about diversity, will be taking place.
Those who would like to hear interesting insights about an invasion of Ethiopia by Italy in 1935 — 46 years after the famous Battle of Adowa — also have every reason to attend the online event.
The 8th Annual Pluralism Lecture will be a must-watch partly because its main speaker is an acclaimed novelist Maaza Mengiste, an Ethiopian who lived in Nigeria and Kenya before moving to the US.
It will also be an interesting session because Ms Mengiste’s lecture will be themed around how societies can come to terms with histories of war and colonisation to help build a more inclusive future.
Because there are wars being waged across the globe at the moment, her message will be all the more relevant.
Ms Mengiste is the author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze (2010) and The Shadow King (2019) — novels that have received global acclaim.
She was the winner of the 2020 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has also been awarded various honours such as the Creative Capital Award.
The theme of Ms Mengiste’s lecture is: “The Moment of Encounter: History, Disruptions, and Transformations.”
It will give insights into the work that went into the development of The Shadow King, a novel about the 1935 Italy invasion of Ethiopia that was a finalist in the Booker Prize 2020.
“She will discuss the surprising and revelatory discoveries she made about collective memory and official archives, and what history can teach us about the future,” says a message from the event’s organisers.
The lecture is being organised by the Global Centre for Pluralism, an independent, charitable organisation founded by the Aga Khan and the Government of Canada.
The centre says on its website that it was founded to foster inclusivity in society.
“Diversity in society is a universal fact; how societies respond to diversity is a choice. Pluralism is a positive response to diversity. Pluralism involves taking decisions and actions, as individuals and societies, which are grounded in respect for diversity,” states a post on its website.
“We are living an historic moment of urgency for pluralism.”
Personalities who have spoken at previous annual pluralism lectures include South African freedom fighter Justice Albie Sachs; Ms Beverley McLachlin, the Chief Justice of Canada between 2000 and 2017; and current UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Introducing the lecture will be Princess Zahra Aga Khan, a board member at the Global Centre for Pluralism.
“She will reflect on how the (Covid-19) pandemic has created an urgency for conversations and actions centred on building respect, empathy, and a more equitable, just and prosperous future for all,” a message from organisers said.
The lecture will be co-presented by the University of British Columbia, one of the top institutions of higher learning in Canada.
After her lecture, Ms Mengiste will have an audience dialogue moderated by Nahlah Ayed, a host at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
According to Ms Meredith Preston McGhie, the Secretary General of the Global Centre for Pluralism, Ms Mengiste’s lecture is crucial in many ways.
“Her writing tackles issues at the very heart of pluralism — collective memory, historical narratives and identity — and offers us the opportunity to learn about how to build and strengthen societies where everyone belongs. This is so critically important,” she said in a statement.
“Literature can help us see past the polarisation and politicisation of these issues, to bring us to a more constructive place,” added Ms Preston McGhie.
The event will be streamed on the Facebook page “Global Centre for Pluralism” or through the YouTube account “Annual Lectures from the Global Centre for Pluralism”.