Bonnie McConnell: Singing and Health Promotion in the Gambia

The ANU’s Research and Innovation News (March 2018) has reported that Bonnie McConnell has ‘been funded over $250,000 by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and Medical Research Council for the project ‘Developing a Community Singing Based Intervention for Perinatal Mental Health in the Gambia’.

An abstract of Dr McConnell’s article from the July 2017 issue of Ethnomusicology reads as follows:

‘Kanyeleng fertility society musicians have become an integral part of health promotion programs in the Gambia. Health workers have embraced kanyeleng performance in the name of making their programs more participatory and therefore more effective in combating persistent health problems.’

Dr McConnell also presented a paper at the annual African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific Conference held at University of South Australia in November, 2017. Her Abstract is from the conference website

African Popular Music, Politics, and Belonging in Australia – Bonnie McConnell, School of Music, The Australian National University
Australian political and media discourse frequently presents African cultural difference as a
problem that prevents people of African descent from integrating into Australian society.
While research has drawn attention to the problem of negative representations of Africans
in Australian society (Nolan et al. 2011), the cultural strategies that African Australian
communities use to challenge these representations have not been adequately explored.
This research examines two African Australian cultural festivals as important sites of self representation and political action, challenging the negative representations of African
Australians in the media. Drawing on ethnographic research with musicians and festival
organisers in Sydney and Melbourne, I examine the way African Australian performers
negotiate and communicate notions of history in order to articulate a sense of place and
belonging. I show that popular music in particular provides a powerful site for negotiating
multi-layered identities and plural histories, challenging one-dimensional representations of
African Australian people. By focusing on popular music, this research seeks to draw
attention to “hidden histories” (Hall 1990) of African Australian communities, as well as
cultural strategies for maintaining a sense of coherence in the face of displacement and


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