Chimurenga Keeps on Innovating, Educating, Surprising

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Genna Gardini

"Do you want to die here or at home?" asked a poster I walked past late last year. I remember stopping and staring at the billboard, trying to decipher the meaning of this very personal question stuck among the general declarations of the other newspaper headlines.

Some months later, I found myself absent-mindedly flipping through a magazine at a friend's house and being struck by its opening paragraph:

"When I came home from abroad, death was in style. I don't remember when I first noticed it. I remember only the moment when a few sightings could no longer be understood as a coincidence. I looked upon familiar scenes and noticed things that had previously escaped me, or perhaps were not there."

Taken from Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts' essay Momento Mori - A Letter from Harlem, these words reminded me of the poster.

Rhodes-Pitts's letter opens Chronic Books, a 92-page stand-alone literary magazine packed into the Chimurenga Chronic. This is the publication the posters were not so much advertising as a part of.

The Chimurenga Chronic is the latest endeavour of Chimurenga, a project that often defies categorisation. Founded in 2002 as a journal, the current manifestation of Chimurenga is difficult to peg, save for its abiding commitment to all things Pan-African.

As Chimurenga magazine, it has published art, poetry, short stories, cultural criticism and political commentary from across and concerning the African diaspora. Chimurenga has also, however, facilitated discussion across numerous other media. There have been live music shows, discussion panels, podcasts, a radio station and an online archive hosted and facilitated by the Chimurenga team, to name but a few of their projects. Chimurenga clearly takes its slogan, Fela Kuti's song Who No Know Go Know, seriously.

Last year, Chimurenga was announced as the winner of the prestigious Prince Claus Fund's principle award, no small feat for a tiny collective operating out of a few small rooms at the top of the Pan-African Market on Long Street in central Cape Town.

Many wondered what they would come up with after being awarded the prize and a year ago Chimurenga revealed their latest and arguably most ambitious endeavour yet, the Chimurenga Chronic.

An intervention into and explosion of the newspaper format as a medium for disseminating knowledge, the Chimurenga Chronic is a once-off speculative newspaper backdated to May 2008.

It's a weighty package, physically and intellectually, made up of five broadsheet sections, the Chronic Books magazine and a Chronic Life segment, with a mixtape by renowned musician and composer Neo Muyanga to top it all off.

The fictional newspaper was released on the anniversary of what the Chimurenga team refer to as Black Wednesday. …