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Introducing the Historical Alternative to “Black Wednesday”: The Chimurenga Chronic

On Wednesday 19 October, the literary journal Chimurenga is publishing a once-off, one-day-only publication called The Chimurenga Chronic, a fictional pan-African newspaper to be released on “Black Wednesday” – marking the day the apartheid government banned Black Consciousness organisations and newspapers 34 years ago, 19 October 1977.

Guilt TaxAfrican Publishing

The Chronic contains news, analysis and longform journalism by award-winning writers in 96 pages. But the journal is not all about politics – the Chronic Book Review Magazine is a stand-alone magazine containing 96 pages of interviews, book reviews, as well as new fiction and poetry.

Preceeding the release of Chronic, The Chimurenga team have embarked on a 6-week long public art intervention, where newspaper headline posters, asking provoking questions, have been released in the cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa; Lagos, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; Goteborg, Sweden, and in cyberspace.

DipaloThe newspaper is also issued with Dipalo: a mixtape for those who practice counting by Neo Muyanga. You can listen to the audio supplement here.

So get ready for the “low-tech time-travelling machine” that is The Chimurenga Chronic on Black Wednesday. Chronic will be distributed on the streets and in bookstores by the following participants: In South Africa, by Chimurenga, in West Africa through Cassava Republic Press, in East Africa through Kwani, and in the USA and Europe through Idea Books.

Press Release:

Chimurenga‘s new publishing project takes the form of a once-off, one-day-only edition of a fictional newspaper to be released on “Black Wednesday”, October 19th 2011 – a historic day in South Africa that marks the banning of numerous Black Consciousness organisations and independent newspapers by the apartheid regime.

Titled the Chimurenga Chronic, the project is an intervention into the newspaper as a vehicle of knowledge production and dissemination. Editor Ntone Edjabe explains, “Knowledge produced by Africans is always curtailed towards simplicity because we are trapped in the logic of emergency. At Chimurenga we’re constantly trying to create beyond this shut hole of relevance. There is indeed famine and war but there is also life. There is also innovation, thinking, dreams – all the things that make life. Our project is to articulate this complexity.”

In order to do this, the Chimurenga Chronic takes a step back. Locating itself directly inside the emergency, the newspaper is backdated to the period of May 2008, a time marked by the outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa.

“Our sense of history, of what is relevant, is marked by the newspaper medium,” notes Edjabe. By embracing this form, the Chimurenga Chronic seeks to provide an alternative to mainstream representations of history, on the one hand filling the gap in the historical coverage of this event, whilst at the same time reopening it.

“The objective is not to revisit the past to bring about closure,” says Edjabe, “but rather to provoke and challenge our perception, in order to imagine a new foundation from which we can think and act within our current context.”

The newspaper
The result is both a bold art project and a hugely ambitious publishing venture that gives voice to all aspects of life on the continent. The 96-page multi-section broadsheet features news, analysis and longform journalism by award-winning writers and journalists. Its content ranges from in-depth investigations into xenophobia, border politics, the business of migration and ethnic economics, to innovative coverage of sports, arts, health, technology and more.

The stand-alone 56 page Chronic Life Magazine features photography, essays, guides, games, columns and more, and the Chronic Book Review Magazine is a self-contained 96 page magazine packed with interviews, analysis and over 92 pages of book reviews, as well as new fiction and poetry.

Of course, as Edjabe notes, “it isn’t a Chimurenga project if there isn’t music.” With this in mind the Chronic also comes packaged with a free audio CD supplement in the form of a “mixtape” composed, arranged and performed by celebrated musician and composer Neo Muyanga.

A Pan African Collaboration
In an effort to shift the perspective away from the confines of nation-states, The Chimurenga Chronic is a Pan African production, created in cooperation with independent publishers Kwani? in Kenya and Nigeria’s Cassava Republic Press. It brings together journalists and editors, writers, theorists, photographers, illustrators and artists from around Africa and the world to create a platform for imagination and dialogue.

The Chimurenga Chronic is realised with the kind support of Glänta, Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, Heinrich Böll Stiftung and lettera27.



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