Toasts on the Occasion of the Launch of the New ISS

Remarks on the Launch of the Institute for Signifying Scriptures
July 9, 2016
Katie Van Heest – Reflections on the ISS – Ten Years In
July 9, 2016

Toasts on the Occasion of the Launch of the New ISS

November 15, 2014, Pasadena, California

A Toast by Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje:

Good evening ladies and gentleman, my name is Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje. I am pleased and honored to have been invited to participate in this historic occasion. I first met Vincent Wimbush in 2003-04 when he invited me to present at the international conference celebrating the launch of the Institute for Signifying Scriptures in the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University back in February 2004.

As some of you may know, I’m not a scholar of religion. Rather, I am an ethnomusicologist. Ethnomusicology is a discipline that can be defined simply as the study of music (in/or as) culture. Over the years, I have become fascinated with the broad way in which scriptures can be used to understand aspects of culture. So much so, I’ve recommended the work of the Institute to my students and colleagues because the ideas seem so appropriate for some of the things that we do as ethnomusicologists.

Therefore, I congratulate Vincent on launching the “Institute for Signifying Scriptures” as an independent entity that will be dedicated to using new ways and means to research scriptures. I believe his determination and scholarly achievements will make the institute a model for 21st century research.

Before closing, I would like to recite an entreaty or prayer that comes from a film, entitled Atumpan: The Talking Drums of Ghana (1964). The film documents the construction of the atumpan, which is important because when an Asante king comes to power or elevated to a higher status, a new set of atumpan drums are made for him. Before the drum makers cut the tree that is used to construct the drum, a ritual is performed for the spirit of the tree. It is believed that this spirit will continue to dwell in the wood of the finished drums. That is why libations are played before every performance of the atumpan.

For our purposes, the tree represents ISS (The Institute for Signifying Scriptures) and cutting it down signifies (moving or taking it away from the Academy).

We’re going to fell (or cut) you down and take you home to our elders for them and their children to use you.

Here are three leaves, which we give to you. We do not give you our lives.

Here is an egg for you. Take it, eat it, and be with us.

We’re going to use you.

We shall not have any foul play with you.

Listen kindly to our entreaty.

We have come here to fell you down and carve out of you atumpan drums and their children.

To any chief who takes you and uses you, give life and happiness.

Let him not be impotent, let him not be blind, and let him not be deaf.

Let all his subjects love him. I am here with my brothers.

Take this drink and stand firmly behind us.

Please join me in wishing Vincent Wimbush the best in this new and important endeavor.


A Toast by Grey Gundaker:

Hear, hear all ye who thither came,

The new ISS is calling your name.

Perfidious scripturalization hide your face;

The ISS will put you in your place.

Grand dreams and covert strategies of those who are oppressed—

From you we seek guidance and for you we’ll do our best.

From fearless Wimbush the call has come:

Get going everybody. We’ve got a new home!

Cheers, Salut, Prost, L’chaim, Kampai!

Hear! Hear!

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