UCC’s ERC CIPHER project to feature on RTÉ One television series

UCC Professor Griff Rollefson’s ERC-funded research project, CIPHER: Hip Hop interpellation, will feature on RTÉ One’s television series Change Makers on 7 February at 8:30pm.  As the Irish Universities Association explains, “The six-part series will feature the most transformative research-led projects and the inspiring people behind them… showcasing the remarkable and lasting public impact of leading research projects.” 

In its final instalment, Change Makers will focus on Rollefson’s CIPHER project—the world’s first global study of hip hop music and culture.  With the CIPHER project, Dr Rollefson and a team of global researchers (from Ireland, South Africa, Australia/Thailand, the UK, Mozambique, and Brazil) are investigating how and why this highly localised African American music has translated so widely to far-flung communities and contexts around the globe.  “The answer”, as Rollefson told RTÉ News, “lies in the ways that the art form privileges local knowledge as a key to unlock global truths. Hip hop imagines the world from a bottom-up rather than top-down perspective. What’s more, it’s a form of progressive populism that has the capacity to correct our current path towards bigotry and intolerance, so I think it’s time to listen to these voices that are on the front lines of history."  CIPHER’s value will thus be in understanding the power and impact of hip hop music and culture to tackle societal problems and unlock global truths through local, grassroots lenses. 

The Change Makers programme follows Rollefson and UCC CIPHER fellows, Warrick Moses and Ophelia McCabe, as they bring youth in direct provision from the Cork Migrant Centre together to dance, rap, sing, and paint with young artists from Cork City’s Northside Kabin Studio.  As part of that collaboration, the youth and youth mentors from those Cork youth centres decided to stage a performance of hip hop’s grassroots power for all to witness live at UCC’s Honan Plaza.  As Rollefson explained, “In our initial conversations the youth understood exactly what CIPHER was up to, and it all snapped into focus when the amazing choreographer and CMC mentor, Andrea Williams, came up with the title, Ubuntu: Local is Global.  She’d connected CIPHER’s thesis about how hip hop localizes universal knowledge to this Zulu word ‘ubuntu’ which means ‘I am because we are.’  I was like ‘That’s it!  The local is the global!’” 

This, the final episode of Change Makers, tracks the planning and rehearsals up to and including the 19 September performance of local activism and global unity on UCC’s campus.  “Ultimately”, said one of the youth mentors, “we want to use this visibility [of the RTÉ programme] to start a fundraising campaign for a purpose built youth arts centre that will be a home for all of us!”  As captured by another African proverb that regularly makes its way into hip hop lyrics, “it takes a village”. 

To learn more and to get involved follow @GlobalCipher and visit https://globalcipher.org/  

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