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An informal discussion

Smiths and spirits: The ethnography and archaeology of metallurgy and magic

Thursday 16 June 2016
Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden


  1. Prof. Walter van Beek (African Studies Centre, Leiden University) talks on "The smith in Sub-Saharan Africa", based on his fieldwok in Cameroon (Kapsiki/Higi) and Mali (Dogon). (30 min.)
  2. Dr Maikel Kuijpers tells about his research on "The smith in Bronze Age Europe" (15  min.)
  3. Ady Roxburgh MA presents his research on "The smith in early medieval Europe" (15 min.)

Prof. Van Beek’s most recent (2015) book is The forge and the funeral: The smith in Kapsiki/Higi culture (Michigan State University Press):

“Throughout Africa one craft among many stands out: that of the blacksmith. In many African cultures, smiths occupy a significant position, not just as artisans engaging in a difficult craft but also as special people. Often they perform other crafts, as well, and make up a somewhat separate group inside society. The Forge and the Funeral describes the position of the smith in the culture of the Kapsiki/Higi of northern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria. As an endogamous group of about 5 percent of the population, Kapsiki smiths perform an impressive array of crafts and specializations, combining magico-religious functions with metalwork, in particular as funeral directors, as well as with music and healing. The Forge and the Funeral gives an intimate description and analysis of this group, based upon the author’s four decades–long involvement with the Kapsiki/Higi. Description and analysis are set within the more general scholarly debates about the dynamics of professional closure—including the notions of caste and guild—and also consider the deep history of iron and brass in Africa.”

Moderated by Raymond Corbey

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