||AN UNDERGROUND journal named after the Zimbabwean war of independence, Chimurenga, provides a platform for wordy renegades from Africa and the diaspora. In print since March 2002, the journal is published by Ntone Edjabe, a Cameroonian journalist based in Cape Town. It started as a quarterly publication, but now the magazine rather eccentrically only hits the streets when there is something worth talking about in the arena of arts, culture and politics.
The magazine presents an alternative to the mainstream media market,
argues Edjabe, where newspapers and magazines either have little or no
space for serious debate and discourse around contemporary or historical
issues confronting our societies.
Now in its sixth issue, entitled The Orphans of Fanon, the journal has
published some of the most radical fiction, poetry, photographs,
critical theory and non-fiction emerging from the African continent and
abroad. With a strong Pan-African leaning, it has featured works by
South African writers such as Njabulo Ndebele, Lesego Rampolokeng and
Santu Mofokeng. Writers from the continent include Kenyans Binyavanga
Wainaina and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Senegal's Boubacar Boris Diop,
Tanure Ojaide from Nigeria, Goddy Leye from Cameroon, Mahmood Mamdani from Uganda and Jorge Matine from Mozambique.
The sixth and latest edition is saturated from cover to cover with
contributions from people Edjabe regards as putting out challenging
ideas about art, culture and politics. Featuring Ziggy Marley, son of
Bob Marley, on the cover, the issue includes contributions by Algerian
writer and journalist Mustapha Benfodil, who writes on the
commodification of struggle credentials in his country; filmmaker
Branwen Okpako, who creates a mock script about film-maker Christopher
Okigbo; and South African poet Khulile Nxumalo, who writes a choreopoem
about cafe intellectuals loitering around the trendy Joburg suburb of
"New blackness is a blackness that is defined by a radical fluidity that
allows powerful existential conversations about blackness across
genders, sexualities, ethnicities, generations, socio-economic positions
and socially constructed performances of Black identity," writes author
Mark Anthony Neal in an in-depth review of an album by revolutionary
soul singer Me'Shell Ndege'Ocello, called Cookie: The Anthropological
If that sounds like a mouthful, Ndege'Ocello offers a simpler version in
her song Dead Nigga Blvd: "You try to hold on to some Africa of the
past/ One must remember it's other Africans that helped enslave your
The African diaspora often does resemble a "sanctuary for the walking
dead", as Ndege'Ocello says, where we name buildings and streets after
betrayed struggle heroes so their memories can take on an air of
"It is precisely these shallow and hypocritical notions of Pan
Africanism that Chimurenga seeks to obliterate," says Edjabe. "It is
important to reflect on what exactly is African and how that is defined.
People like to talk about it like we are in the 50s. After half a
century of post-colonialism and swallowing the bullshit that we have
been fed, the question is: How are we gonna spit it out?"
Edjabe's question is echoed by Who Invented Truth?, an article by
Kenyan-based writer and founder of Kwani? magazine, Binyavanga Wainaina
Interrogating the superficial has always been the core agenda of the
publication. The various renegades are captured in a series of profiles
"thinking out loud". Chimurenga shies away from the Q&A format and
includes deconstructed and imagined interviews, surreal short stories
and poetry and other devices that challenge strict notions of fact and
The piece that perhaps embodies this mission best is an interview with
reggae jester Lee Perry, presented in a dub format. Already regarded as
a borderline lunatic, Perry rains down the funked up qoutes: "I am the
first scientist who mixed the reggae and found out what the reggae
really is. The reggae created so much cocaine streggae and caused so
much trouble and cancer and destruction. I am also the archangel who
blows the trumpet. Seven trumpets of judgement and justice for my
Little about Chimurenga makes business sense. It is decidedly free of
advertising, and it has gotten progressively thicker with each volume.
The journal is published from, and based at the Pan African Market in
Long Street, Cape Town, a fact that belies its bilingual Anglo/French
It's academic tone renders it somewhat inaccessible to the masses, some
have argued. But its high-faluting tone, according to Edjabe is a way of
"backing the angry nigga up with theory".
Chimurenga uses practically every means at its disposal for
distribution: mainstream book stores, used-book dealers, cultural
events, organisations, collectives, university campuses, as well as
individuals in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya, Swaziland,
Botswana and Ghana. Its distribution has seen it read on campuses in
Germany, the US, Britain and France.
Edjabe says that mainstream bombardment has never been Chimurenga's
objective. "Solidifying the connections of like-minded folk on an
increasingly global scale, however, is the objective."
Echoing Rampolokeng's opinion in his recent H.A.L.F. Ranthology album,
Edjabe believes that those who feel the void in the marketplace will
inevitably gravitate towards Chimurenga.
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