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Chimurenga: who no know go know;
An interview with Ntone Edjabe.

By Dídac P. Lagarriga (2004)


Chimurenga, a publication, of arts, culture and politics from and about Africa and its Diasporas, has been in print since March 2002. Started as a quarterly, Chimurenga now appears whenever.

I. Me, who no know...

Let me ask from the ignorance, from the hazardous way to find you and from the surface too. Let me point it out, because only highlighting my faults we can understand the following. I hope.

The surface of a cover, which I immediately forgot it. Something visual. Black (we can say black & white, but there white color it was only an excuse for black). The surface of a posted cover, filed as jpg, resized and undimensional. Named Chimurenga (founded by Ntone Edjabe) automatically replacing me to Zimbabwe. Yes, its name replaced me. Me, the intruder. Me, the ignorant. Internet is the tool that fights against me, my time, my pocket, my slow connection hand-mind; chimurenga.co.za rested at home, encrusted. What did I know about Chimurenga after my first and fast contact? Nothing but the surface, the cover, some interview updated any time before my visit, before my ignorance and, yes, after it.

I've decided to prepare some questions for them. Because there are somebody behind / on top. It should be.

Email, the tool of ghosts, the unseen. And, suddenly, it was replied. That was time to start the beginning, to ask Ntone Edjabe...
Mr Edjabe, let me ask from the ignorance, from the surface, from form...

- Why not putting your efforts in another thing? Is not an offensive question, of course, but I'm really interested to know the reasons to start and continue Chimurenga and the way you defend your work.

Ntone Edjabe: I don't feel i should defend, or justify why i do what i do. Such apologies would imply that there's a great authority above us all that determines what needs to be done and how it should be done...

- I've never had Chimurenga in my hands. Is it possible to understand the project via Internet? Restricting the publication on-line only, won't suppose a reduction of costs and a huge public access increase? What represents PAPER and TOUCH?

NE: More than the tactile element, it was important for us to exist in print, in order to make the intervention we needed to make in the body of written material on and/or from Africas. But i also feel the debate between online and print is an old debate. I don't think one excludes the other, and that's the approach we chose. To have a presence in both spheres. The text published online is very different - shorter and more news related - than what we carry in the print issue.

- I quote you: "Fela's tune 'Lady' was a hit underneath this country at the same time it rocked west African clubs (and this was long before London's trends factories put it on Metro FM). It is the whites here who had few or no references in the rest of Africa. I think the 'exceptionalism' has always been a hangover from 'South African Studies', itself a babalaza from another white creation called 'Bantu Studies'. And when one adds this to the lack of fluidity that characterized apartheid, you have entire populations zooming into whatever they perceive as their national belly button. And the postcolonial order has yet to tackle this legacy. So the line of brainwashing still carries many old clothes. The level of xenophobia in this country and South Africa's imperialist approach north of it only demonstrates the washing has yet to dry. Call Chimurenga a literary tumble-dryer."
Far away -and from my reduced point of view- sometimes I can imagine South Africa isolated from the continent, "another thing"... Can we talk about a distance or difference between South Africa and Southern Africa?

NE: I think that's the point in the quote you mentioned. The trivia that passes for 'difference' is overemphasized. Fundamentally, there's little difference: South Africa was an unofficial British colony until 10 years ago. Zimbabwe was an official British colony until 20 years ago...one has fertile agricultural land and other has gold and diamonds, and white settlers chose to call both 'home'...

- Is your pan-africanism inclusive or omits aspects that, on the other face, is quite impossible to not omit because "pan" has intrinsically omission on its meaning? Will we someday talk about pan-chimurenga? How your job as DJ helps to develop the meaning of "pan" -a global vision ready to mix?

NE: The battered corpse of pan africanism should be left to rest. We're simply using it as point of departure - everyone needs one. The hibridity industry can go straight to hell...

II. Go know... (now)

"If the question is what does it mean to be post-colonial, then Chimurenga answers by breaking it down. There is the post- of post-modernism, a shattered world without stable truth or grand narrative. There is the colonial, the spectre that still haunts. It is the double answer given by Paul Gilroy: blackness isn't, yet it is."
(Julian Jonker)

"It seems that there's a recurring spotlight on blackness in all volumes. Why?
NE : I have as many issues with 'spotlights' as with 'highlights'. If we're going to use lights lets make them 'floodlights'. At least that'll deal with the obscurity underneath our skulls. And since we're in the dark here lets talk about blackness: it's not our focus. It's fact. Our themes carry the same dose of melanin as our life experiences and I'll make no apologies for that. In discussing sexualities for instance, one cannot overlook the fact that gay subculture is dominated by the needs and demands of white males. But we're NOT preaching to "save the race" in this grand - and now quite lucrative - Church of Blackness. There's always music in that church so this is my song. If you like it sing along."
(Interview excerpt published in YMag and now available at Chimurenga's website)

Information, articles, photos and more at Chimurenga's on-line version http://www.chimurenga.co.za

oozebap . sept2004 . index