Heroes condense history in persona. What contexts facilitate the emerging of heroes? Who are the actors and addressees? How are local heroes nationalised or globalised? Reflecting on these questions we want to explore the dynamics and process of the making and unmaking of heroes in Africa.
Soundiata Keita is a long dead one, Nelson Mandela is a living one, Mohamed Bouazizi has unintentionally turned into one, Robert Mugabe is a 'fallen one' and Laurent Gbagbo tried to, but might never succeed to be one. With the 50th anniversaries of independence being celebrated in most African nations throughout the past 5 years, with the Arab spring, the birth of new nation states (South Sudan) and new nationalist projects (Azawad) the 'hero' has gained new popularity. Heroes often play a prominent role in narratives and performative formats of remembering the past, because they condense history in persona and thus make history adaptable to the individual members of a memorial community. They offer themselves especially for the iconographic condensation of a (hi)story to be told; their counterfeits can be printed on placards, T-Shirts etc. Heroes are symbols. They can stand for a vague idea or a concrete incident, and more often than not they are contested. A heroes' gallery reveals the fault lines of a mnemonic community. What contexts facilitate the emerging of heroes? Who are the actors in this process, who the addressees? How are local or regional heroes nationalised or globalised? Once established, how are they 'exploited', by whom and to what end? How are heroes toppled from their pedestals? We especially invite the panel participants to explore, on the basis of first-hand empirical research, the dynamics and process of the making and unmaking of heroes in Africa.