West African Pentecostalism in Southern Europe. Spiritual Power, Engendered Spaces, and Aesthetic Practices
by Annalisa Butticci, Ph.D - Principal Investigator-
The methodological approach of this research combines ethnography with multimedia, such as texts, photography, videos and audio recordings. A multimedia approach was chosen to respond to both the research questions and is consistent with our understanding of research as a never-ending process of knowledge acquisition.
Our goal was to narrate African Pentecostalism by means of images, sounds and texts, letting the reader, listener and observer come as close as possible to the emotional regimes that Pentecostals experience when they worship together in Nigeria, Ghana and in a foreign land in Europe.
Multimedia methods provided a more ‘democratized’ space for the subjects involved in our research. They can be seen and heard through interviews, images and sounds. We can meet them ‘in the flesh’, with their own voices, styles, characters and expressions.
Multimedia works are never stories with an ending, and this work is no exception. The images, sounds and videos of the African Pentecostals collected during our fieldwork are open narratives that can be linked together again and again in various ways. Scholars, students, and the merely curious can shift the focus and adjust the lens, connect different pictures, sounds and videos with different texts, theoretical approaches and data. This ongoing creative research process can be seen from various angles and is open to a number of possible interpretations.
The material gathered in Italy, Nigeria, and Ghana includes 64 interviews, 150 hours of video/audio recordings, and more than 150 photographs. The field work was an adventure shared by Annalisa Butticci, an ethnographer, and Andrew Esiebo, a professional photographer. They worked together exploiting their different research tools and complementing each other’s findings. The images, videos and sound tracks capture episodes of anointing and deliverance from evil spirits, divine healing, bodies at prayers, styles of worship, music and dance, objects, styles of dress, adornments for altars, pulpits, Bibles, containers of olive oil, bells announcing the end of prayers, and sacred images. Part of the visual material was presented through the photographic exhibition “Na God. Aesthetics of African Charismatic Power” (2012) and published in the catalogue ‘Na God. Aesthetics of African Charismatic Power” (2013). A film entitled “Enlarging the Kingdom. African Pentecostals in Italy” (28 min) was also launched in 2013.
The project was founded by Progetto di Eccellenza by Cariparo Foundation (2009-2012) and is currently supported by a Marie Curie Fellowship (2012-2015), FP7-PEOPLE-2011- IOF/ Proposal No. 302640/ Acronym: WASE