Chimurenga, a platform for dissent (South Africa)
Statement by Ntone Edjabe
In the 10 years that followed liberation in South Africa, the machinery of the state at the media level, at the opinion level, the moral police basically set an agenda, that for the sake of unity, for the sake of "reconstruction" we should all be happy. We should all be happy and if we are not happy, we should seem to be happy.
We should hold hands in public and present a face of a unified nation. This is after the horrendous experience that apartheid constituted for most people in South Africa. So it became necessary for some of us writers, artists and so on to create a platform where dissent against this consensus, this agreement, would be acceptable and even encouraged.
This I think is what is at the origin of Chimurenga. That was reactionary probably, but it was certainly reacting to this onslaught. But at a later stage, after the publication was in existence, we began to think about what it is. Initially we just wanted to have a space where we could write freely about the contradictions of the state or within the state or the societies that we lived in. We wanted to create a space where we could publish those stories, that no one had considered publishing, but when we put out the very first issue, we began to interact with the public, that is the expectations from everyone else, or what they would want from such a space.
So we had to determine for ourselves, what this publication should be about and as an editor for me the most important preoccupation was about constituting a space where one could speak for themselves and from themselves. That was going to be the point of departure and secondly, we were going to try to create a sort of breathing space, a sort of breathing space between - and you have to keep this in the context of a country that is frenetically engaged with the process of nation building – a sort of breathing space between the uncomfortable but also creative task of critique and the obligatory and very very necessary work of reconstruction.
We wanted to create a space that plays inside that gap where we move away from the dichotomies, we move away from the moral economy of apartheid, of colonisation, we were moving to a space that encouraged play and play more in a sense of automobile mechanisation that is tac tac tac tac rather than point a or b but a distance between the two and stimulate thinking and creativity that functions in that space, because for me that space was not existing. There have always been spaces for dissent even during the apartheid period, in fact there were certainly more spaces for dissent as you can imagine during apartheid, but all these spaces were precisely cut in the moral economy of good versus evil, not looking at the complexities of space and people and class and so on. This is essentially, philosophically where Chimurenga comes from and were we are located.
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