Ceri Whatley is a PhD candidate in African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham, UK. Since 2007, she has lived, worked and travelled in 15 African countries and has conducted prior research on isicathamiya music in South Africa (which won her the Fage undergraduate of the year award). Ceri was first introduced to beautiful Rwanda in 2010, when she worked for non-profit organisation One Laptop per Child (OLPC). Marrying together her interest in education and the arts, Ceri spent a second year in Kigali teaching art and music to primary school children.
Ceri’s PhD research explores “musical traffic” – both physical and digital – between Kigali, Rwanda and Kampala, Uganda, with a focus on Afro Beat, R&B, Dancehall, Hip Hop and Spoken Word. She is particularly interested in processes of music making, and in the construction of new Rwandan identities, post-1994 genocide.
Ceri recently conducted over 12 months of ethnographic research in Rwanda and Uganda. She was based in Rwanda, but traveled with recording artists as they moved between Kigali and Kampala in order to trace and map out complex networks, exchanges and strategies for success.
Ceri became actively involved in Rwanda’s growing music scene. When she wasn’t spending her time at recording studios, she was accompanying recording artists to performances (where she was sometimes asked to MC) and to video shoots, in which she participated. While living in Kigali, Ceri undertook Kinyarwanda language training. With the help of her teacher and her friends, she was able to translate 70 selected songs. She conducted 40 in-depth interviews with Rwandan and Ugandan recording artists, audio and video producers, dancers, studio managers, music promoters, journalists, and radio/TV presenters.
After completing her fieldwork, Ceri spent a month in Belgium as an international visiting scholar. Back in Birmingham, she taught Introduction to African Culture, a first year undergraduate course. She delivered lectures on African literature, art and music, and facilitated core debates about representations of Africa.
While conducting her research, Ceri was extremely impressed by the relentless hard work of the artists she befriended. She was so inspired by Eric 1Key’s poetry that she has resumed her childhood hobby of writing poetry and songs. While growing up, Ceri was trained in classical piano and the oboe, and in ballet, tap and modern dance.
Ceri is currently writing her thesis in the English countryside (Devon), where she is pleased to be surrounded by green hills and cows, reminding her every day of Rwanda! She looks forward to returning to her “second home” as soon as possible, and plans to continue sharing her work.
Ceri is working with Professor Karin Barber and Dr Katrien Pype, both leading experts in African popular culture. She is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC-M3C) and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or: email@example.com.