Ivor Miller

Ivor Miller

Mark Claster Mamolen Fellow 2016-2017 Academic Year
Senior Lecturer at Bassey Andah Institute for African and Asian Studies at the University of Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria


Ivor Miller is a cultural historian specializing in the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and the Americas. He was a Senior Fellow at the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution (2011-2012), a Fulbright Scholar to Nigeria (2009-2011), and currently teaches in the Bassey Andah Institute for African and Asian Studies at the University of Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria. His most recent book, “Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba” (UP of Mississippi 2009/ CBAAC Lagos 2011) was awarded Honorable Mention by the Association for Africanist Anthropology. Based upon fieldwork in Nigeria, Cameroon, Cuba, and the USA, it documents ritual languages and practices that survived the Middle Passage and evolved into a unifying charter for transplanted slaves and their successors.

See afrocubaweb.com/ivormiller/ivormiller.htm and www.crossriverheritageafricandiaspora.com for more.

Project Description

Cuban Lukumí Bàtá: Ajúbà to Oba Ilu

In Cuba, the Lukumí bàtá drummer’s guild was established by West African Yorùbá-speaking migrants in the 1830’s, developing exclusively in the port cities of Havana and Matanzas. The bàtá drum ensemble was an integral part of communal ceremonial life, but because of colonial repression, was kept hidden until 1937, when scholar Fernando Ortiz presented a bàtá ensemble at the University of Havana. From then onwards, the bàtá drum entered national consciousness, primarily through the concert tours and teaching of Jesús Pérez-Puentes, who is the focus of this project. Pérez participated in the 1937 lecture-demonstration of Fernando Ortiz; he led the integration of bàtá drums into symphonic orchestra performance, jazz bands, as well as the Cuba’s National Folklore Ensemble, while remaining a highly respected ceremonial bàtá guild leader. Since his death in 1985, and as I argue largely because of his legacy, ceremonial Cuban bàtá ensembles have expanded to other parts of Cuba and the Caribbean, and are currently found on every continent. After over twenty years of research on Lukumí bàtá history and practice, including in-depth interviews with musicians who participated in Pérez’s activities, I will produce a 300-page monograph with text, photographs and audio that document and analyze the cultural history of bàtá in Cuba. Theoretically, to discuss the process of African cultural transmission to the Caribbean, this work challenges the general theory of ‘creolization’ while detailing three processes that describe cultural formation: conservation; recreation, and creation. At the completion of a twelve-month residency at the Hutchins Center, I will present the monograph for publication at a University Press.

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