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Honors Thesis Spotlight: Murktarat Yussuff ’12

 Murktarat Yussuff '12
Murktarat Yussuff '12
Department: African and African American Studies(AAAS)

Topic: Fela! on Broadway: An Exploration of  African Representation in Contemporary Popular Culture

Advisor: Deborah King, Associate Professor, Sociology

African and African American Studies major Murktarat Yussuff united her personal interests with her classroom experiences for her honors thesis on the Broadway play Fela!, a musical based on the life and work of Nigerian political and cultural activist and musician Fela Kuti. Murktarat explores contemporary issues concerning the representation of Africans in popular culture, including histories of colonialism, politics of representation, and constructions of authenticity. In her thesis, she seeks to find and explain some of the meanings and consequences of how each of these topics are expressed in the play.

Murktarat explains, "One great assertion of the project is that art, especially visual art, operates within a different language than verbal language. My project seeks to merge the distance that has often been created between the production of art and text in academic scholarship."

An American-born Nigerian, Murktarat says that this project was heavily influenced by her own background. "My interests as a scholar quickly became focused on art's political and social influence. I am a visual and performance artist myself and I was very motivated to explore and attempt to understand some of the sociological constructs and ideas behind the performance, and this project has allowed me to do so." Along with her AAAS major courses, Murktarat has taken various courses in the Women and Gender Studies, Theater, and Sociology departments. Her interdisciplinary work at Dartmouth helped her to better understand her focus on art and identity performance in different contexts.

"One of my greatest challenges, but also the most rewarding, has been the mission to make sure I invest myself into the work," says Murktarat. "I focus on researching the topic and presenting it in a way that excites me and that I find interesting, but also challenging. This has created a model for me that I believe will drive me throughout my career as a cultural activist and academic artist."

Murktarat developed her thesis research with support from the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. After graduation, she plans to continue her work as an artist and arts educator by investigating Anglo-Nigerian art and identity in London as a Dartmouth Reynolds Scholar.

Last Updated: 5/17/12