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L I T E R AT U R E A ND WRITING
A F R I CA Derek Horton
SAHARA Harris Kyprianou
B I G B ROT H E R ’ S HOUSE Niran Okewole
C U STO M A RY TENURE Samuel Punhal I H AV E N E V E R B E E N TO A F R I CA Phil Sawdon S E E M E , K N OW ME Florence Ayisi and Catalin Brylla W E H AV E A L R EADY S O L D O U R H E ARTS Sean Furmage
NEW ORLEANS 64 Images by Hervé Coutin Text by Hanne Ghesquiere
32 ARCHITECTURE DAVID ADJAYE Interview by Rose Cooper-Thorne
BLUE CITY 12 Gordon O’Connor-Read ART
44 THE SOUNDS OF A LISTENER WITH A BAG Alan Dunn introduces Radio Continental Drift
FAS H I O N S U B L I M I N A L MUSE Harris Kyprianou
48 COVER IMAGE BY HARRIS KYPRIA N O U
H A ND PICKED
A COMPENDIUM O F T E N Y E A RS O F ST I M U L U S RESPOND, FEATU R I N G WO R K BY M I C H A E L TAUSSIG, DANNY H O F F M A N , J O H N H U T N Y K , CHRISTINA LOVI N , E D I T H B E RG FO RS A N D MANY MORE. WWW.PAVEMENTBOOKS.COM/HANDPICKED
F R A NCIS A .GREGORY LIBRA RY I M AGE CREDIT: JEFF SAUERS
DAVID ADJAYE Interview by Rose Cooper-Thorne
I M AGE CREDIT: ED REEVE
TRY I N G TO D I S C U SS a holistic ‘African Architecture’ and what that might look like going forwards is an impossible task, but someone who can give us a unique insight is Architect David Adjaye OBE. Growing up, Adjaye experienced its most diverse landscapes, as well as those that surround it, before moving to Britain at the age of nine. He has gone on to forge a unique design career, on projects which range in scale from private houses, exhibitions and temporary pavilions to major arts centres, civic buildings and masterplans in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Renowned for an eclectic material and colour palette and a capacity to unfold cinematically, the buildings differ in form and style, yet are unified by their ability to challenge typologies and to generate a dynamic cultural discourse. Receiving ever-increasing worldwide attention, the practice’s largest commission to date is the design of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum HOW DID YOUR EARLY YEARS GROW I N G U P of African American History and Culture on the National MOVING AROUND AFRICA INFLUE N C E YO U R Mall in Washington D.C., due to open in 2015. CAREER AS AN ARCHITECT AND D ES I G N E R ? Up to fourteen-years-old, I lived in Africa in almost every region: East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and North Africa, because my father was a diplomat. We were placed in the emerging cities, the new cities that were rising. For me, the Continent is therefore a group of rising metropolitan, Modernist cities, which offered a very powerful first memory for me and gave me a natural
N O BEL PEACE CENTRE I M AGE CREDIT: TIM SOAR
in. That informs how the building is made. Ideas about access and personal freedoms are embedded. For me, this YO U ’ V E B E E N I NVOLVED IN LOTS OF is the primary act of public architecture: to be socially PUB L I C B U I L D I N GS BOTH IN THE UK AND edifying and socially liberating. It is an emancipatory form, OV E RS E AS , W H AT APPEALS TO YOU ABOUT which effects the politics of progression. That is really the core of my work. When it doesn’t have that quality, I am THO S E P RO J EC TS ? less interested, I don’t feel it is what architecture should be Our ideas about a civilized world are manifested through about. the architecture we make. So when I work on public buildings in particular, I think about how people relate to ‘David Adjaye’s vision is one that promotes multiple interpretations each other and what that means in the society that we live of the civic experience. The approach to urban development is driven ability to negotiate different spatial and social conditions.
I N T E R N AT I O N A L F I N A N C E C O R P O R ATION OFFICES I M AG E C R E D I T: A D J AYE ASSOCIATES
by the human-scaled complexities of urban living in parallel with the driving forces of topography, geography and climate.’ HOW D O T H E D I FFERENT AREAS OF AFRICA REP R ES E N T E D I N YOUR BOOK AS ‘DESERT, FOR EST, M O U N TAIN AND SAVANNA/ GR AS S LA N D ’ REQUIRE DIFFERENT APP ROAC H ES TO DESIGN? As suggested by their names, each region has a different climate and vegetation, as well as its own history and culture. The thesis of my study is that the unique conditions in each region have had a decisive effect on the architecture and urbanism there. This is especially clear in the capital cities of the countries concerned. Due to its Mediterranean coastline, the Maghreb is quite different from the other geographic regions. Its cities’ historic role as centres of trade, mean that they appear to offer a sense of protection, like citadels, and this seems to have been their overriding inspiration. Desert cities tend to evolve near water. Cairo and Khartoum, for example are located on rivers, with lush river architecture dominating. There is trade everywhere and the compactness of the urban fabric gives shade. In the cities of the Sahel, there is a very clear layering of the relationship with the countryside, and of how the city engages with its hinterland. Because the landscape is on the threshold between vegetation and desert, the domestic architecture is generally horizontal – a cellular, atria-like architecture – while thecivic buildings often take the form of emphatic vertical symbols. The architecture of the Savanna and Grassland has to come to terms with the strength of the light and the need for shade. This explains the brise-soleil architecture, the vernacular roofs or deeply recessed arcades. The Forest is where the wetlands are, where the tropical rains dominate and there is an architecture of fertility. The roof architecture of Freetown is a good example of the language of form that is necessary to deal with the heavy rains. The Mountain and Highveld region is distinguished by its high elevation and precipitation, and lush vegetation with an often bucolic landscape. This is reflected in the picturesque, suburb-like quality that you find in many of these cities.
become like islands, and when they are reinforced like islands, they exacerbate a problem that we already have, which is how do we create modernity? IN A CONTINENT SO VAST, HOW D O YO U CHARACTERISE ITS DESIGNS? W H I C H A R E SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE P RO J EC TS YOU’VE WORKED ON THERE? You cannot characterise its designs in any universal way. Every context is very different. I am excited about all of my work in Africa – it is incredibly varied. In Lagos, we have the Alara Concept store which is due to open very soon. In Ghana, we are working on a masterplan, a school campus and residential projects. We are creating a new headquarters building for the IFC in Dakar, Senegal and residential developments in Johannesburg. YOU’VE SET UP AN OFFICE I N AC C R A , WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR YOUR WO R K I N GHANA? It is an extension of my practice more generally – so I simply hope to explore new typologies and to work on a diverse and exciting range of work. I would like the office to expand, but I am keen to remain involved in every project and to maintain a compact team. Most importantly, I would like to be able to contribute to an important narrative within the lexicon of African architecture and to create new, regionally specific models that can give form and materiality to the contemporary African condition. THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF A F R I CA N AMERICAN HISTORY AND CU LT U R E I N WASHINGTON IS DUE FOR COMP L E T I O N I N 2015, WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR T H E S PAC E AND WHAT INFLUENCED ITS DES I G N ?
It is an incredibly exciting project and it has been a real honour to be involved in the creation of this monumental building on Washington DC’s historic National Mall. It has been driven by a number of things – from the A LA RG E PA RT O F YOUR WORK NOW IS IN extraordinary Pierre Charles L’Enfant 1791 masterplan AFR I CA , W H AT H AVE YOU OBSERVED ABOUT within which it sits – to Modernism and the architectural MO D E R N A F R I CA N ARCHITECTURE? context of the buildings on the Mall. Obviously its other key narrative is the emotional and intellectual idea of I think architects and planners struggle to create an image having an African root as well as the universal idea of of modernity on the continent as there has been very little one culture understanding the experience of people of a urban development for at least 100 years. As a result, the different culture. It is my most significant commission to critical problem, is that much of the recent and current date, won through an international competition in 2009. development seems completely incongruous to the place. So anything that you put into this context looks like a www.adjaye.com dividing line between extreme poverty and something that’s privileged. When places like Eko Atlantic in Lagos Adjaye · Africa · Architecture is available now from Thames start springing up, it amplifies this dilemma. These places and Hudson.
BLUE CITY CHEFCHAOUEN MOROCCO
Words and images by Gordon O’Connor-Read
An historical gateway into the African continent from Southern Europe, Morocco has been a pivotal setting for trade, immigration and conquest. A kaleidoscope of peoples has claimed it’s expansive terrain of desert, mountains and coastal frontiers as their own. Located in the northeastern region of the country is Chefchaouen, otherwise referred to as the ‘The Blue City’, a torchbearer to this remarkable heritage. Founded in 1471 as a fortress by Moorish rulers to repel Portuguese excursions into North Africa, this 40,000 inhabited medina sits within the fulcrum of the Rif Mountains. The blue-rinsed pigment that adorns a large sway of the city, originated during the settlement of Spanish Jews when it became a refuge from persecution. Subsequently it has become an archaeological account of the human tragedies of conflict, but also points to their survival. No longer a strategic choke point for two colliding empires, the mountain range is the city’s fortification, imposing itself as if it were bell-towers or minarets summoning worshippers to prayer. On arrival, residents and tourists alike, leave their cars on the main road and ascend on-foot up the winding paths. Solid stone paving soon gives way to a labyrinth of well-worn narrow streetscapes, awash with the white & blue pigments that Chefchaouen has become recognised for. In similar vain to the clandestine streets of Venice, or its closer neighbour of Tangier, a wrong turn can fortuitously become a moment of discovery. Young boys can be seen trading dice in huddled groups, while elder members of the community weave streams of yarn into
intricate carpets on beautifully crafted loom machines, all at a canter. Tourism may have become the recognised currency, but certain traditions remain unaffected. Its wealth of mosques, oratories and mausoleums are testament to the level of conservation that is observed citywide. The Great Mosque of Chefchaouen, AlMasjid al-Aadam, holds a particular reverence amongst the population as a teaching centre for Islamic studies, with many in-resident students attending throughout the year. The main body of the building is rather plain, with the exception of the octagonal-shaped minaret, as custom in Morocco. Even though non-Muslims are excluded from entering, its architectural prestige can
be admired whilst quenching your thirst on the local mint tea, a national pastime, in the handsome Plaza UtaEl Hammam. Upon reaching the upper inclines of the medina, its clear that the very isolation of Chefchaouen is the key factor for its inertia. Many of the structures, whether residential, ecclesiastical or municipal, have been altered and upgraded without disrupting the visual coherency of the city as a whole. As such the transition in colour from blue pigment to clay margon roof tiles, an inheritance from Portuguese settlers, is both gradual and fully tonal. In the market squares, Moorish architectural motifs remain imbued with remnants of the blue pigment dating back to the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Jewish heritage. The pale blue
doorways differ from the steps that precede them, and the wall face to each building, where there was once bare stone and mortar is now all part of the same narrative of its adopted peoples. Several cities across the continents of Asia and Europe can boast of an architectural multiculturalism, such as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, but these are grand gestures. Chefchaouen is less opulent but equally portentous. A more sobering experience of African craftsmanship where fragments of ethnic Berber, Iberian Catholic, Arabic Muslim and Jewish culture can remain simultaneously visible for all posterity.
PHOTOGRAPHER HARRIS KYPRIAN O U
WE HAVE COME BACK, DEREK HORTON, 2014. C O L LAGE SOURCES: 1. W.E. B . D U B O I S P O ST E R O N T H E WA L L B E H I N D A RC H I E S H E P P AS S E E N I N T H E C OV E R P H OTO GRAPH OF HIS 1 9 7 2 ALBUM, ATTICA BLUES; 2 . A P H OTO G R A P H O F M E LT E D TA R O N A N A LG I E RS ST R E E T; 3 . A RC H I E S H E P P L I V E AT T HE PANAFRICAN F EST IVAL [BYG ACTUEL 51]; 4 . A P O RT R A I T P H OTO G R A P H O F S U N R A .
A F R I CA
Words and collage by Derek Horton
Headeye he was followinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; The glory boat Afro-horn, catcher-clouds
We are still black And we have come back We have come back Brought back to our land Africa The music of Africa Jazz is a black power Jazz is an African power Jazz is an African music We have come back
Cold white hands Manipulating They broke us like limbs from trees Carved Europe upon our African masks and made puppets
The black man in the cosmos Black fire Swifter than the leopard and slower than the spotted cow Weaving myth-ocracy from The loom of language
We are still black And we have come back
Go to Jupiter or Mars or Venus Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s easier than to go to Africa and try to be an African
Afrofuturist Africologist Africobra
Symmetry flowing free Repetition changing every time
Kool-Aid colors Coolade images for superreal people Vivid, singing Kool-Aid colours Of orange, strawberry, cherry, lemon, lime and grape Colours of the black family
Reality undistorted Reality-plus Breaching The wall of respect Built from the ruins of Africa
The demon that is the blues The rich lustre of a just-washed afro, of spit-shined shoes Colour that defines, identifies and directs Superreal colour for superreal images The superreality that is our everyday
We are still black And we have come back
A daydream balloon floating in a black sky Pregnant with optimistic fantasy bubbles Building from the ruins of African families To be free
The field of stars is a white-hooded army In the face of the imperviousness of black
Concentric circles of sunlight Individualise and collectivise Kaleidoscopic collectivity as form Patterned African cloth Connects present to past
Dashiki and shades in the Newark ghetto Free Egyptian perfume for the ladies In a Gelede mask with sunglasses
We blue black wards strugglin’ against a big creepy white fog
(Leroi had his shades on so everything was black)
Africa people, our fingerprints are everywhere On you America Our fingerprints are everywhere Césaire told you that A wide panafrican family strewn around the world Blue and funky, cooler, flashier, hotter, afro-cuban, james brownier
Tired of these box mentalities. Pummel it Beat it Fight with your music, man On a fucked-up piano with 25 keys
Panthers chewing Apple cores
The short fuse and the long explosion When rigor mortis sets in you’d better move on, To Paris To Algiers To Jupiter We are still black And we have come back We have come back Brought back to our land Africa
The music of Africa Jazz is a black power Jazz is an African power Jazz is an African music We have come back
To Africa To Algiers To Venus To Jupiter
THI S C O L LAG E D TEXT draws from two opposing sources in African-American music that reveal the flaws in attempts to essentialise Africa, or an idea of Africa, and the dangers of appropriating such an essentialised Africa to an ideological position. Avant-garde jazz in the 1960s was increasingly associated with black nationalism and its advocacy though both the black power movement and the Nation of Islam. Black nationalist positions in turn were significantly influenced by Panafricanist ideas deriving from Kwame Nkrumah, W.E.B. Dubois and others. The saxophonist Archie Shepp began his performance at the Panafrican Festival in Algiers in 1969 by chanting the words that appear italicized (and repeated) in the text. Alongside Clifford Thornton, Grachan Moncur III, Dave Burrell, Alan Silva and Sunny Murray he improvised over a wall of percussive sound produced by a large group of (significantly unnamed) Algerian and Tuareg musicians. The naivety of the sentiment of his statement is highlighted in the contrary position espoused by the equally radical musician Sun Ra. Although he argued for a specifically black culture he began from the assumption that African-Americans were no longer African peoples and had very little in common with Africans. With rather more nuance than Shepp, he recognized that since African-Americans had come from many different ethnic groups they couldn’t be seen as unified by a single African heritage. As his biographer John Szwed has pointed out, Ra “had little sympathy for the popular solutions proposed in the 1960s. He mocked them viciously: black pride? It goeth before the fall. Black power? I prefer black weakness, he’d say, black cosmo weakness. Power gets absorbed, but weakness unleashed could destroy the whole earth.” At least since the early 1950s, Sun Ra’s performances and writings blended science-fiction, fantasy, Afrocentric interpretations of Christianity, magic realism, Egyptology and non-Western cosmologies to critique the
present-day dilemmas of black people and to interrogate and re-examine historical events, in a nascent form of what has come to be known as Afrofuturism. For a brief period in 1971 Sun Ra taught a course at the University of California, Berkeley. Many elements of the text above that are not the words of Archie Shepp or Sun Ra themselves are drawn from sources in the highly eclectic reading list of that course, UC Berkeley, Afro-American Studies 198: The Black Man in the Cosmos. They include direct quotations from Henry Dumas’ Ark of Bones and Poetry For My People (1970), Amiri Baraka’s In The Tradition from Baraka and Larry Neal’s edited collection Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro- American Writing (1968), as well as references to Frederick Bodmer’s The Loom of Language (1944). Incidentally, the academic Molefi Kete Asante has made a case for describing himself as an Africologist and amid debates in Afro-American Studies about appropriate nomenclature, so far the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, is the only university to have established a Department of Africology. Other material in the text draws on concert posters reproduced in Ingrid Monson’s Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa (2007) and the manifesto of and other writings about AfriCOBRA (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists, formed originally as COBRA, the Coalition of Black Revolutionary Artists, and renamed after they became aware of the European CoBrA group). Another source (that brings yet another nuance to the position) is an interview with Burton Greene from 2003, published online in ParisTransatlantic. Leroi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka) had attacked Greene in a review in his Apple Cores column in Downbeat in 1966 and the interview allows Greene to tell his side of the story, framing it in the racially defined terms of the influence of black power in the 1960s on jazz musicians and critics alike, and arguing that Jones was blinkered by his consequently essentialist viewpoint.
BIG BROTHER’S HOUSE Words by Niran Okewole
THE G O L D F I S H, the one that did not sleep, the one that startled Ana Morais by whispering her name, prodded vainly for the camera lens hidden behind the glass, which magnified the eye. Other cameras were just as cleverly hidden, out of sight of the housemates but visible to goldfish. Yawning, Brenda picked up a couple of throw pillows which had been tossed carelessly on the carpet by the boys last night. She set some of the sofas back in order, moving to the kitchen where she sat on a stool, trying to shake the headache out of her braided hair. Everyone had had rather too much to drink last night, at the preeviction party. Some drank out of an impending sense of lost friendship, some to overcome fear or calm frayed nerves, some simply to have a good time. She put on the espresso machine, reaching for a coffee mug. They had played a game last night. They had a basket full of questions, and took turns answering them. You give a wrong answer and you have to take a shot from the bottle of Jack Daniels. She had missed quite a few questions. Then the fight which had been brewing covertly between Bode and Jude boiled over. Jude, from Cape Town, seemed to hold Bode responsible for all the Nigerians selling hard drugs in Johannesburg. In the end, the fight, aided by alcohol, had nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with whether Channel O was a better music station than SoundCity. Rob, the Zimbabwean, was sitting on the patio, strumming his guitar. From where Brenda was seated, the blond fuzz on his chin glowed like a hot plate. He was up for eviction two weeks back, and again this week. But now he was also Head of House. The only white housemate, he had listened with quiet amusement during the first weekend house party to an argument among the housemates about whether it was possible for a white man to be truly African. “Rob! Put away the guitar, man! I’m nursing a hangover here” Brenda shouted. She once told him he reminded her of the white tourist who tried to rape her on a date back home in Nairobi, where she worked as a model. Quiet boy like you, she said. Such good manners until we got back to his flat. Rob did not find this funny. His sister had been molested by Mugabe’s thugs while they were trying to evict his family from the farm they had owned for as far back as he could remember. He wanted the prize money so he could buy another farm,
maybe outside Cape Town, where he could grow wine grapes in the daytime and play his guitar in the evenings. The loudspeaker crackled. “Rob. Please proceed to the interview room.” He passed through the kitchen where Bode and Ana Morais were making breakfast. Bode had been a cabin crew member for a Nigerian airline. The airline had had its license suspended after one of the planes crashed. Ana Morais was an Angolan Psychology student, a single mother who liked to cook and was friendly with everyone. “Good morning Rob,” Big Brother greeted as Rob settled into the beige armchair. “Good morning, B.” It was always awkward, having this conversation with an unseen presence. He wondered what Big Brother really looked like. From the stentorian voice, he imagined a thickset, Paul Robeson kind of guy. But then the voice was probably filtered through a device that gave it that quality and the owner of the voice may well be a very different kind of person. “As you know, the three housemates up for eviction this week are Bibi, Brenda and yourself. You are at liberty to replace anyone, including yourself, with another housemate. “I’m aware of that, B.” “Ok then. Are you making a swap? He paused for the slightest of moments to weigh his options. He knew he had been put up for eviction by other housemates, possibly by Brenda herself. All he had to do was nominate Jude, and if Jude got evicted, he might have a chance to get close to Brenda. “I will prefer to leave things as they are.” “You are sure about that, Rob?” “Yes, Big Brother. I am." “Very well then. You will not disclose to any of your house mates what you have done until I instruct you to do so.” “Yes, B.” “You will convey the next task to the housemates. Big Brother is offering ten thousand dollars for a community project. The group with the better proposal wins. “ He dropped by the men’s room on his way down. Jude was tinkering with the sound system. He quit his job as an insurance agent to come to the House, but he was a disc jockey on the side. If he won Big Brother’s millions,
he would set up his own recording studio and produce music. From the girls’ room, he heard muffled voices and remembered his most agonizing day in the house yet, the day he had stumbled on Brenda and Jude making love. They had covered themselves with a blanket, but the squelching and smacking sounds underneath were unmistakable. Thankful for doors that did not creak on hinges, Rob had closed the door to a mere crack and tiptoed downstairs. Who could blame them? You can’t shut up healthy, full grown adults in a house no matter how fancy, for three months, and expect them not to get frisky. For him of course the solution was always simple: a palmful of soap while having his bath, and a mental image of Brenda. In the girls’ room, Bibi is telling Carl why her family of Coptic Christians fled Cairo to live in the United States, and he in turn tells her about the Milles Collines. He had an uncle who was lucky to enter the hotel during the war and made it to Belgium thereafter. Carl had been in Belgium for years and only saw the conflict on TV. At 26, he is roguishly handsome, with dreads. He is half Rwandan, half Belgian, and has a 45 year old wife in Brussels. After breakfast, Bode reclined on one of the chairs in the courtyard, lulled by the lawn sprinkler. Only seven of them left, he thought, out of twenty-one. Four more evictions and then the last three will be up for the big prize. He had given up trying to figure out what went on in the minds of the viewers who voted. There had been several housemates who came in with what seemed foolproof strategies for survival. They had all been evicted. He had settled for living one day at a time, and hoping for the best. The morning calm was shattered by a piercing scream from the girls’ room. Bibi, who had been napping in Carl’s arms, was whimpering as he tried to calm her. She had had a horrible dream, in which she strolled into a restaurant for lunch. There was a big table in the centre with half a dozen guests seated around it. She had seen parts of Rakia, the last evicted housemate, served up in different dishes. One gentleman had her head on a plate, congealed blood settling at the base like jelly. Someone else had a pair of breasts, someone else a grilled thigh. An elderly lady in glasses was picking at a pair of eyes and a tongue.
The rest of the day passed without incident. Big Brother sent for Ana Morais. The other housemates were seated in the living room, waiting for the eviction announcement. There was the soundtrack that invariably preceded Big Brother’s announcements. “Good evening, housemates.” The voice boomed. “Good evening, Big Brother.” “Big Brother has the unpleasant task of evicting yet another housemate. Can the housemates up for eviction please stand.” “Rob, as Head of House, you had the option of saving yourself or another housemate. Can you please announce who you chose to save?” “I saved no one, Big Brother.” Jude titters. “Which as you know means you are still up for eviction. Well, the votes are in, and I have here an envelope containing the name of the housemate to be evicted.” The soundtrack grew louder. After a pause, with a loud rustle of paper, the voice returned. “Rob, you have been evicted. You have ninety seconds to leave the house.” The other housemates rally round him, saying their goodbyes. Brenda was the last to give him a hug. “Goodbye, Rob.” She gave him a peck on the cheek and sent him to his death. The house exit was connected with a dark tunnel which in turn opened into a transparent glass tube, like a fashion show runway. Along the length of the tube, separated by the thick glass wall, were seated members of the audience, all calmly reposed, looking at him with indifference. A Chopin prelude filtered in. Halfway down the aisle, the air conditioning vents in the glass tube started letting in jets of a white vapour. Rob was breathless in no time. Gasping for air, he pounded futilely on the glass wall of the tube. The men, women and children on the other side continued to stare at him, now with a tinge of curiosity. His now sweaty palms, plastered to the glass tube, slid down as he sank to his knees. He started crawling toward the end of the tube but was dead before he reached the exit.
CUSTOMARY TENURE Words by Samuel Punhal
THE H OW L I N G A ND DANCING go on until well past midnight. I am told this only occurs in December and July, which gives me hope. Perhaps I’ll get a solid night’s sleep yet. Why do they howl so? I don’t speak Xhosa, but I do know that mostly men are involved. I asked one old character and he gave me the sense that it’s as much about proving yourself to be a real man as it is about singing. I must be honest, though: they don’t seem to have very much to be joyful about. They are poor here, love. While there are Arabs who wear nothing but rags and have little to fill their stomachs, the children I see here look worse. They appear as though they have not changed their clothes for weeks. I suppose that’s part of what makes me feel satisfied about the work I’m doing here. And yet I daydream: I imagine us together, tending the palms and eating decent cheese. Drinking wine. Well, you know the rest. Please write, my love. I miss you much. The Xhosa gingerly scooped several spoonfuls of sugar into his teacup, carefully eyeing the mlungu’s movements. This mlungu was different—very different. He sat awkwardly, with his legs crossed rather than apart like most men. This white man also sat close to you when he spoke, much closer than they usually do. The mlungu also scrunched his eyes all the time when he spoke, in the same way an old man does when trying to make out something he cannot quite hear. The Xhosa could only think to drink his tea for now, a nervous behavior that could be disguised as custom. He poured a cup of the tinted water into a saucer with one hand—the only proper way to cool scalding liquid—and sipped it carefully with the other. His eyes brimmed from above the lip of the saucer. Like a hunter behind a hide, he surreptitiously tracked the gestures of the mlungu while he spoke. “Mr. Matywane, I would like you to show me your land. I know you have a large field. You no doubt have many cattle.” The mlungu uncrossed his legs and began to move closer. The Xhosa poured more steaming tea into his saucer and angled it acutely. The lip covered his eyes this time. “Sir, you must have many mielies, lots of maize. I’ve heard the people of this region are very good farmers.” The mlungu took his gaze off the Xhosa for a second and began searching through a black leather suitcase brimming with papers. He sighed while fumbling through
loose papers and then finally clasped one in triumph. He shook it a few times for effect, as though the precious papers were divined by his ancestors. The Xhosa put down his teacup and saucer. He shared a glance with the mlungu and then bowed his head as he spoke, “Boss, it is difficult for me to understand why you are here. We are always growing too many things. It is too difficult for me to say where I grow my mielies, where I take my cattle; where I go is very far, too far. And we all go to the same place, up, over there,” the Xhosa gestured out the window by craning his neck forward, yet still keeping his hands in place. A sly index finger betrayed him, however, and the mlungu could see that it pointed in the direction of a valley full of scrubby bush and thicket. The mlungu sighed again and cast an eye around the rondavel, haltingly. The interior of the hut was easy to scan, but no table was yet in sight. He placed a paper on his knees and the pressed it down with his palms so that creases would not form. “Mr. Matywane, if we can establish which is your land, it will be very good for you. You will receive a nice map. And you will know exactly how much land you have and what is exactly yours.” The mlungu pressed the paper again and stood up. He inched close to the Xhosa and put his finger on a line of text. “Mr. Matywane, the chief is very excited that everyone will be able to have strong rights to their land. He is excited that this government is listening to the people and giving families the opportunity to succeed, to honor their ancestors.” The mlungu paused to make sure the Xhosa was paying attention. The Xhosa waited for the mlungu to finish, but instead of sitting down the mlungu returned the document to his briefcase with care. “And you have spoken to the chief?” the Xhosa inquired, anxiously. He looked out the window again and saw billows of blackish smoke rising from a field on the other side of the valley. “And the headman, you spoke to him …” The sounds of a child screaming in the background drowned out his words. They were immediately followed by the rat-tat-tat of slaps administered to bare buttocks. “Yes, yes, Mr. Matywane. The chief and the headman both know. They invited us. The Republic invited us, me, to help the people here. To help you.” The mlungu looked irritated, his eyebrows angled downward. He
crossed both his arms and his legs and sat back, keeping his stare direct. “Very well, boss. I can show you where I plow. Where I take my cattle. But it is very far away. Too difficult without good boots. You know it rained now?” The Xhosa stood up and avoided looking either at the mlungu or out the window. The attention was overwhelming. He grabbed his knobkerrie from behind his door, caked with mud, and signaled for a little girl in the corner of the rondavel to fetch his sjambok. He murmured, then shouted. She brought him a heavy coat as well. “So we are going up there now?” the mlungu inquired, a sense of excitement ringing in his voice. The Xhosa responded with a nod and within minutes they were following a footpath through tall, dried grass and thorny trees. Wispy, golden spires covered both men to their elbows. They wove their way down the gorge, filled with tufted grass of a different variety. The Xhosa stopped when he came to a creek, redolent of excrement and urine. He paused for a few minutes. He neither bent his head nor closed his eyes, and thus looked to be praying. “Mr. Matywane, is everything alright?” The Xhosa did not reply, instead tapping his knobkerrie a few times on a rounded stone and strode up a hillside. The stench was unbearable to the mlungu and the prospect of a further climb filled him with dread. “Come, come,” the Xhosa, this kushi, beckoned impatiently. His rough and stubby hands looked less welcoming than foreboding, but the Jew saw no alternatives. Clasping his briefcase atop his head, like a land crab ascending into the lit world, he mimicked each step the kushi made along the footpath. The Jew felt as though they were wading through dense patches of vertical haystacks. Spikelets from the grass reached the ears of both men, even though the kushi was much taller. The Jew imagined snakes were a problem here, and probably ticks too. The kushi’s picked up his pace and despite the low angle of the wintry sun, the Jew felt unexposed parts of his skin being seared. The grass seemed higher now and every now and again the kushi would stop and press down blades of it with his knobkerrie But how can he see what’s below? the Jew thought. For what seemed like an eternity walking through a
maze of tussock, the Jew noticed it thinning out, yet the stench of cow dung was even more pungent. The kushi stopped at a gnarled acacia and looked back to the Jew. Tree and man looked as one; both very near broken. “We are here now,” he pointed the narrow end of the knobkerrie at a distant corner of barren earth. “This is where my field begins, boss.” The Jew was drenched in sweat and beads were forming at the corners of his eyes. He was forced to constantly blink, even if in so doing his eyes stung and his vision became cloudy. He flickered a few times to drain the perspiration, but it was of little use. As he looked across the expanse of the field the Jew saw only a few stones upturned; bluish gray in their sheen. He turned to the kushi who contemplated a desiccated furrow of straw and dung. “Mr. Matywane, is your harvest done? You’re not planting anything?” The Jew picked up a handful of dirt and rubbed globular clumps together, between thumb and palm. The kushi nodded at first and then paused, thinking better of it. He draped a large rund of his canvass jacket above his nose and sneezed. The Jew bent down and grabbed another clump, grinding it to dust this time. He glanced at the Xhosa’s palms and reflected for a second that his were darker than a black man’s. “Mr. Matywane, let’s measure your field, shall we? Big Chief Sebe wants to make sure everyone knows what they own. He is expecting great things for the Republic.” The kushi nodded in agreement and ambled toward the Jew. “Boss, this field is one hectare,” the Xhosa affirmed, looking to the horizon and then back toward the Jew. “Yes, it is one hectare, I think.” The Jew smirked, but bent his head in effort to prevent the Xhosa from seeing. He dove his hand into a sack and pulled out a wooden level, which he toyed with for several minutes given his encrusted hands. He set the instrument on what the Xhosa had shown him as the corner and carefully arranged the contraption so that even something so rudimentary would gauge the barren plot. A spindly thin boy herding a few heads of cattle snuck up from behind the Xhosa. Wearing ragged clothes and equipped with a small sjambok, he wouldn’t have drawn any attention except that atop his head he wore a bright blue beanie. It acted as a reflex of the midday sun,
and both men averted their eyes, trying to concentrate instead on the hoof-beats of Nguni cattle plodding by. The creatures violently snorted and crunched the dried grass beneath, warning all of its inevitable conquests. The Xhosa uttered a few words in isiXhosa; the boy rejoined monosyllabically, making full use of his languages stereo of clicks. Silence returned. The Jew followed a path of furrows along the fallow field and made notes on a yellowing notebook. “What did he say?” The Jew didn’t look up from his annotations, choosing to adopt the speaking style of his hosts. “What did that boy say to you?” “He said nothing, boss. He is saying nothing but rubbish, this one,” the Xhosa replied, motioning with his head toward the trail of broken grass the Nguni had left behind. His hands were firmly positioned on the knobkerrie; a solid trunk planted firmly in bone-dry soil. “No, really, what did that boy say?” the Jew looked up from his annotations as he spoke. He carefully sized up the Xhosa, prepared to gauge a response. The Xhosa stood silent for a moment and then muttered a few words. “What was that?” “He said nothing, boss. He is just wondering what kind of money the white men will bring us now.” The Xhosa kept his head down, each of his words trailing further off into the breeze-tinged air. The Jew kept his eyes fixed on the Xhosa and let out a puff of air for dramatic effect. “Mr. Matywane, the people of Israel do not bring money for your people. We bring jobs, we bring knowledge, we bring help so that your people can make a good living.” The Jew placed his notebook in his briefcase and extended an earthen hand to the Xhosa. “The people of my country are here to make the Ciskei the most successful country in Africa!” The Xhosa shook it, limply. The Jew responded with a vigorous pumphandler intended to draw energy from the listless Xhosa. “So, Mr. Matywane, let us finish here and make you a nice map. How would you like that?” “Yes, boss. That would be too nice.” The Xhosa poked the knobkerrie in the furrow and rotated the sharp end slowly. The snorting sounds resumed, this time coming from the other end of the field. Two head of cattle, distantly guided by the same beanie, appeared. This time both men watched the boy intently, unafraid
of the sun’s glint yet nevertheless dumbfounded by the cleanliness of the boy’s headwear. The Xhosa uttered another string of percussive words. This time the boy responded first with monosyllables and clicks, but then ended with a loud whoop. The two laughed, hysterically. The Jew folded the level and brusquely shunted it to his briefcase. He turned to the Xhosa, only half-expecting a translation. The angle of the afternoon sun had grown more distant and the tall grass surrounding the Xhosa’s field varied in hues from verdant to charred. “And when do you plan on planting mielies again, Mr. Matywane?” The Jew kept his gaze on the Xhosa, watching for any averted stare or nervous twitch. “No, boss, I won’t plow for now. It is too difficult.” The Xhosa kept his head bowed, unshaken. “What? And how you will survive? Make a living?” “No, boss, I won’t plow here, not ever again.” “But you showed me this land. You said it was yours—you said it was your field.” The Jew felt his heart rate pick up and as the latent heat of the afternoon poured over him. “No, boss, it is too difficult. This boy,” he motioned to the distant blue-topped herder, “he will take care of the field. It can be his.” The Xhosa lifted another corner of his canvass jacket and sneezed again. The Jew perplexed, advanced toward the Xhosa and tried to make sure he could capture the whites of the man’s eyes. “Who is that boy?” “The chief’s son. He needs to go to the bush,” the Xhosa kept his gaze unflinchingly on the ground, “but when he is ready it will be his.” I don’t know what to tell you. For the many projects that we are involved with here, I think the most important one is to make the Xhosas agriculturally productive. The factories are where all the effort is in Ciskei, but if these people could just focus on cattle they’d be better off. Truth is, love, the Xhosas aren’t very different from us: We both have rich pasts, but we have more of a destiny. Their destiny is controlled by forces outside their control. And what of the olives, love? Will you finally send me some? I’m sick of corn and beans.
Imitation, mixed media, 1977, Phil Sawdon
I have never been to Africa … … From 1976 to 1979 I studied Three Dimensional Design: Ceramics at Bristol Polytechnic (now the University of West of England) at the Bower Ashton campus. In 1977 my year group were on a study visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. It smelt like a charity shop.
I went back to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2002, 25 years later, as a lecturer with a student group so they could select an object for a critical analysis and subsequent presentation. Excitedly I went upstairs to see the piece. It smelt less like a charity shop.
My attention was taken by an object in a showcase on one of the mezzanine levels with the label turned away so I couldn’t read the legend. The object was palm size, gnarled and black, burnt or tarred, a shrivelled lump with carpentry nails pushed in and through and all bound with string. I took it to be at least sacrificial, to ward off spirits or hopefully to encourage some wild sexual ritual, and from what was then the Republic of Zaire (now DR Congo). I made countless drawings and took black and white photographs.
On this occasion the label was turned towards me.
On my return I developed the remaining two years’ work at Bristol as responses to this object and it is arguable, using the ‘stuff happens’ theory that these creative decisions shaped a subsequent career in art life and higher education.
- Phil Sawdon
I read nervously … It was a lemon! … Actually! The story is that a grocer in Leamington had been having trouble with a competitor in the same street; he had to sell the business to him and so he left it on a shelf as a curse on his competitor’s future.
CER A M I C A RT I ST A portrait of an African woman as an artist is a rare sight, but a reality of womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s engagement in art is an important form of expressive culture through objects. Being an independent artist is a phenomenon that not only challenges traditional gender stereotypes, but it also serves as an empowering statement of economic status, personal and social identity. This young artist produces her work in Mbalmayo, a small town in the Central Region.
THIS PHOTO-ESSAY focuses on the expressions of African culture and identity through photographic representations of Cameroonian women within different situations. These situations are informed by a socio-cultural self-knowledge that reveals the women’s re-definition of their role in a modern and gender-divided society; a role that establishes not only their autarchy, but their significance as cultural producers. The women’s knowledge in conjunction with the corporeal action they perform in each picture positions them as agents in a particular material context, which constitutes the nature of “being” itself (Merleau Ponty 1962; Dant 2007). This photo collage offers alternative realities of Cameroonian women and the diverse ways they experience and engage with aspects of culture, and thus the establishment of their active roles and identities.
SEE ME, KNOW ME C U LT U R A L E XPRESSIONS OF CAMEROONIAN WOMEN Words by Florence Ayisi and Catalin Brylla
TRADITIONAL WEAVING Cotton textile weaving is a disappearing traditional art in Cameroon. However, Bamum women continue to keep the tradition alive. This craftswoman is one of few weavers still active in the city of Foumban. She is using a single-heddle loom to produce a special cloth, mostly worn by women. Textile weaving is a strong tradition that underpins the artistic expression of Bamum people in the Western Region.
TOMATO TRADER As food crops increasingly become the new cash crops in Cameroon, women are gaining economic independence through their agribusiness activities. Women dominate the cultivation and marketing of food crops, and their presence adds another dimension to a shift in their status as dynamic contributors to the local economy. Women make up a large part of the traders at Nfoudi market in the capital city of YaoundĂŠ, Central Region.
WINNOWING MILLET Food security and sustaining livelihoods are vital roles that women perform, especially in rural communities. These women are winnowing millet in Oudjila village, Extreme North Region. Millet is an important part of African food heritage and culture, and women are key players in cultivating and preparing this staple food. Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s identity as producers of millet is inevitably linked to the identity formation of whole communities in Northern Cameroon.
REPLICA TRADITIONAL COSTUMES Bafut Women wearing replica traditional costumes and jewellery previously worn by the Bafut Queen and her Ladies-in-waiting. These women from the North West Region displayed their costumes as part of cultural manifestations at the National Festival of Arts and Culture in Maroua. Despite influences on modern lifestyles, women still have a deep sense of pride as promoters and custodians of cultural heritage.
DA N C E RS A vision of women on the move, actively engaged in song and dance, and visible evidence of how women collectively remember and interpret living cultures of Africa. These dancers are performing in front of the Chiefâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s palace in the village of Oudjila, Extreme North Region. The womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dance troupe had just returned from participating at the National Festival of Arts and Culture in Maroua.
FOOT B A L L P LAY E R To play is to belong and to resist; resisting the possibility of being forgotten. Playing soccer gives Cameroonian women a sense of belonging to world soccer culture, and by extension, to the shared experiences perceived and understood in globalized connections. The ball as object provides a unifying force and reinforces the attraction of soccer in different geographical contexts. These women are training at Omni-sports annex stadium, Yaoundé.
Documenting these images of Cameroonian women in different spaces of culture is part of the wider agenda to continue decolonizing African culture and also to establish women’s role in expressing cultural values in modern Cameroon. This offers a vision that not only radically reforms how African women are imagined, but also how they can be remembered, and as Teshome Gabriel (1989) attests, “once memory enters our consciousness, it is hard to circumvent, harder to stop and impossible to run from”. REFERENCES Gabriel, Teshome 1989 Third Cinema as Guardian of Popular Memory. In Questions of Third Cinema. Jim Pines and Paul Willemen, eds. Pp.53-64. London: British Film Institute. Dant, Tim 2007 The ‘pragmatics’ of material interaction. Journal of Consumer Culture 8(1):11-33. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice 1962 Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge.
WE HAVE ALREADY SOLD OUR HEARTS FIELD N OT ES F RO M P O ST- E L EC T I O N K E N YA Words by Sean Furmage
W HY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT INDEPENDENCE? We were waiting to be killed. Richard insists on speaking English. He wants me to hear what he has to say directly from his own mouth. Richard's faded t-shirt reads Peace for Samburu. A honey bee hovers near his bright orange cap sporting the opposition’s Orange Democratic Movement logo. I used to be a beekeeper you know. I worked for the Ministry of Agriculture for thirty years. We sit in a dirt yard lined with rows of simple rental housing constructed from wooden posts. We didn’t go to hear the Governor’s speech at the Stadium. Two weeks previously, the county governor gave a speech in a similar style to the President’s speech that day, although it was at a much simpler celebration than the one in Nairobi filled with foreign dignitaries. Fellow Kenyans, Jamhuri Day is the most significant day in our national calendar, because it reminds us of the time in 1963 when Kenya attained her independence from colonial rule. This Jamhuri Day is also special as it is also a day to mark our country’s golden Jubilee of fifty years of independence. Fellow residents of Samburu County, we have lived with the challenges of insecurity for decades and the menace has resurfaced over the past few months… I want to make a passionate plea that we stop butchering each other. John remembers the governor’s words clearly. For me, it is not this. It was us who were being butchered! Blue words Under New Management painted on a wooden sign hanging in the doorway of a butchery belie the violence of this takeover. Turkana have been chased from their businesses and told they can no longer run butcheries, work at the local slaughterhouse, or buy and sell livestock from Samburu at the town’s livestock market. Women have been chased from the forests where they collect firewood to make charcoal. Two months earlier I got a call from a friend telling me that things were bad in town. I should stay at home. There had been a protest at the local police station and a police officer had shot and killed a young Samburu guy. Later, petrol poured onto mattresses lights up the evening. My phone rings. They’re burning houses! They’re all around us. We’re surrounded. You have to help us! Sarah pleads with me. The police are not coming. Sarah, her son, grandmother, and a few neighbors all crowd into one small room, hoping the mob won’t set fire to a house with people inside. I call everyone I know who might have the necessary clout to move the police to intervene. Nothing but quiet, apologetic murmurs. I break my failure to Sarah. We keep checking in. Each time she sounds more and more frantic, crying down the phone. Other friends tell me not to go up there. Not knowing what to do, I stay. Our last
phone call that night, Sarah tells me she just hopes they will survive the night and we can talk in the morning. A few weeks later Sarah leaves to look for work in a nearby county. Her grandmother said she’s too old to be sleeping under beds and thinking of death every day. They’ve heard gunshots around where they stay now. But her son is not afraid. After reassurances from neighbors that everything is OK he thinks that bullets here must not kill people like they do at home. John has left too. It seemed like every night there were gunshots. You wake up to find out someone has been killed. We tried to talk to the government, but they won’t give us an audience. The Turkana community…the majority are poor. They are being killed for nothing. I was neutral at first. I thought this thing would just end. But then I realized that my family was at risk. I started to take this personally… someone else’s grief became part of me. My heart changed when it became children who were victims. I developed hate…I’m not supposed to as a Christian. Several people have been killed or injured in their homes at night. In response they sleep under beds, or leave their places at night to sleep in the center of town where they feel safer. Some, like John and Sarah, leave for neighboring counties. I hear rumors of mysteriously silent pikipiki (motorcycles) roaming neighborhoods at night, stopping briefly to pump bullets through windows. Joseph confirms the rumors. Most of the violence is being carried out by an organized group moving on motorbikes at night. Guerilla tactics are being used to persuade Turkana that they do not belong in Samburu and should go. Part of the violence is about elected leaders and opportunities. Out of all the county representatives there is only one Turkana. So, Turkana feel marginalized. Unfortunately, although there were good intentions and potential of devolving government under the new constitution, there has been an unintended consequence which I call “devolved tribalism.” Local leaders have taken advantage of the devolution of power to local government. In the lobby a bright Tourism Board poster showing young Samburu men and women in traditional dress covers the elevator. They wear bright red shukas (blankets), and the young warriors jump high as they dance. Is that where I just came from? A Samburu politician in a sharp, sophisticated suit has found time for me in his busy schedule. Great view over the capital city from his office. No shukas and dancing here. Devolution is one of the key things that made Kenyans pass this constitution. Kenyans saw it as hopeful. Especially such northern areas where for a long time, you felt that you’d been neglected by the central government. So I keep saying that this is our independence now. As we celebrate fifty years, we are on year one of independence. He smiles. A couple of years ago he helped get leaders and professionals together to discuss how to bring peace to the county. You might think that the hatred is just in the people who've not gone to school. But when we met and we started to engage, we realized, it is even in us. For those of us who stay in the city and everywhere else, we have that hatred. And I guess that’s what translates, because you are the ones who could talk to
your people and show them direction. If you tell them that these people are bad, then they tend to listen to you. I hear a large crowd of people passing by so I go out to the street. Mary is also watching seemingly hundreds of people march up to the Catholic church. It’s Palm Sunday. Women in shawls of bright blue, red, green and yellow sing hymns together in Swahili, Samburu and Turkana. Local churches fire up their sound systems, competing for the faithful. Mary’s little one runs around us, digging in the dirt. We are starting to hate them again. When Mary started living here it was different from where she came from. Samburu and Turkana stayed together in peace and she lost some of her feelings of animosity. You will have to listen to both sides she tells me. Because Samburu will be biased and full of themselves. Even me! You know they [Turkana] are our enemies. But when you think about it all of us are bad. Mary blames the leadership for what is happening. Many people have told me that an MP is behind the violence. Mary exclaims that he hates Turkana Kabisa! (completely). Mary waivers back and forth between expressions of collective hate and personal guilt. I know I shouldn’t hate them. With a puzzled look she asks me: If they have one representative is it not enough? James is a professional working in town. Under normal circumstances, the way it has been in Kenya most of the time, in a year before the elections, peace becomes elusive. That is when you start hearing of attacks. So and so was attacked and then it is treated as a criminal act. Yet we very well know that it is violence. It is a political thing. So most of us we're just there, waiting for 2016 to see how things will look (The next elections in Kenya will be in 2017). When I first started fieldwork I stayed in a Turkana village north of town. After a few days of carrying my toilet tissue into the simple pit latrine covered with a traditional style dome made from branches, I noticed that a copy of the draft 2010 constitution appeared. Later, I tell a friend and he is disgusted at the lamentable ignorance of locals regarding the constitution and its potential for change. I ask James about it. Here in Samburu it became different. We have people who felt like, now we've been given our county and it is our time to benefit as a community. In the minds of many Turkanas today, they feel like devolution was not the best option because of the way it was misinterpreted locally here. I ask James if he expected the violence to happen. No. Honestly no. Because the governor is young, well-educated, a graduate with a university degree. So I was feeling like these are the people we needed to spur development. But then look at what happened. These things were happening under the watch of people we expected to bring change. And especially taking a tribal angle. It was the least we expected. Especially in the 21st century. I ask James if he’s considered leaving the county like others have. My grandfather, my dad, all of them were born here. I have never been to Turkana County, personally. I don't even know how it is there. He laughs. And I've always regarded this as my home. So when somebody tells me to move to Turkana County I just don’t understand
what they mean. When people ask me my tribe, I just tell them I am Kenyan. Even if that upsets them. Walking back from an interview two men stop me on the street. They ask me who I am and what I’m doing here. Most people are curious about a mzungu (white person) like me wandering about town so I think little of it. But then they ask me repeatedly what have these Turkana been telling you? I ask them who they are. One of them claims to be a police officer. His companion raises his voice; these people are criminals from the north! They are the ones disturbing the peace here! The “police officer” takes him by the shoulders and they leave quickly. I’m a little shaken. I ask another friend if they are worried about talking to me. She tells me a saying. We have already sold our hearts. Many Turkana feel resigned to the situation. There seems little point in fear when it becomes an everyday part of life. I share chai with a woman whose home was burned. She wears an old worn t-shirt, a faded cloth wrapped around her waist. Six months later there is nothing in the single room she stays in with her family except a charred bed frame with a layer of ash beneath it. The mud wall is blackened and cracked and the tin roof is warped. Nobody has come to talk to us, to say the war has finished, so we know nothing about it. We'll just stay like this. But if they will let us go back to the slaughterhouse, to go to forest to make charcoal and collect firewood, the way we used to go, so that we can work together with them, we can vote. But if they cannot do that, we cannot vote. They just want our hearts. And I am a citizen of Kenya. Next time, when people vote again, we are not going to vote. I will not vote again.
SUBLIMINAL MUSE PHOTO G R A P H E R H ARRIS KYPRIANOU MOD E L KS E N I A Z AYTSEVA HAIR A N D M A K E U P GEORGE SIDIROPOULOS AL L G A R M E N TS A F RODITI HERA SS 15
THE SOUNDS OF A LISTENER WITH A BAG Alan Dunn introduces Radio Continental Drift
ARTIST CLAUDIA WEGENER , working as Radio Continental Drift, has been recording sounds across Southern Africa for the past ten years. In this feature, we present an audio interview Claudia gave as part of the international symposium Radio as Art in Bremen in June 2014, alongside her exclusive selection of images for Stimulus Respond. Claudia was a founding member of the artistsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; group Foreign Investment (see our Chaos issue). Through performances such as Good Morning Camberwell (curated by Mark McGowan, London 2005) and The Venice Oratory (curated by William Furlong, Venice 2005), Foreign Investment used sound to explore notions of free exchange and the airwaves as a meeting point between publicly and privately owned space. Around this time, Claudiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own practice increasingly focused on sound and in particular her role as observer,
or in her own phrases, “an artist with a bag” or “a listener with a bag”. Translating observational writing into audio, followed by composing audio observations into broadcasts, projects such as ‘Street Writings’ and ‘NOGO-ZONES’ were frameworks to bring voices and listeners on a more equal footage as “active listeners”. With workshops and joined broadcasts, these projects passed the microphone on to homeless people and black youths in South London. Throughout her work is the image of the “artist with a bag”, the lighttravelling nomad with microphone and spare batteries, part Alan Lomax in the 1930s recording American farms and prisons, and part Annea Lockwood’s sound maps. In 2005 Claudia began spending increased time in Africa, firstly in South Africa, living in Johannesburg and later in Durban, travelling across Botswana and Namibia, then also in Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. There is a soundwork composed around 2006 entitled ‘Radio Armed Response’ that I play to visual art students each year as part of my ‘A history of sound art’ lecture. We hear Claudia ringing buzzers and happily saying “Hallo, good morning, how are you?” over the background sounds of vicious guard dogs. “Good morning, I am collecting public opinion for a radio programme about private security, would you have a few minutes for me?” she continues determinedly. When a voice does respond, the accents tell us we are in South Africa, and specifically Johannesburg, and we are hearing intercom conversations. We eavesdrop on these shortdistance broadcasts between the artist and residents of two suburban neighbourhoods, one in the wealthy northern suburb of Sandton, the other in Soweto. Gradually, the opportunity to speak, or be heard, or be recorded, unravels into reflections on security and gated and scared communities. It is intercommunication confessional meets prison phone. It is an economic and effective, but also chilling, soundwork, a very simple expose of a private closed-system broadcast system, then re-broadcast by the artist across ‘public’ webradio platforms such as ResonanceFM. Over the past few years, Claudia’s recordings across the African continent have focused more and more on the female voice. “I wanted to listen to my sista artists and storytellers, since it’s them and their ongoing activities I wish to join with my mic and “radio bag”… we’ve a long way before us towards a new “global information society”, which would truly deserve its name…”, she reflects and that she is “seeking beautiful
knowledge and how that is transmitted by the women in cultures with deep roots in oral traditions”. Where the recording process is important – it takes the voices and makes them permanent and repeatable, a cultural resource potentially ever-available to all global listeners it is the broadcasting process that ‘gives voice’. It gives the voice distance, duration and resonance space. It gives it a route to potential new ears. In her interview for ‘Radio As Art’, Claudia reflects upon over seventy interviews with African women and the subtleties of who is listening, and how, when we hit the TRANSMIT button. Radio Continental Drift takes an understanding of webradio and mixes it with knowledge of the important relationship between community radio and taxi drivers in Africa. Concepts like “slow broadcast”, “hard-cover radio” and “interaction between listeners” tap and tune in to available distribution channels, super-locally and in Cyberspace. Radio Continental Drift is a long-term project and there is something reassuring about such an artist’s project that spans ten years; a sense of commitment and assuredness in decisions and providing some stability across changing times.
If you wish to experience for themselves how all of this might work, sound and look like you are invited to go on a journey of listening on the Aporee Radio Project, the All Africa Sound Map: www.aporee.org/maps/projects/all-africa-sound-map Interview: www.soundcloud.com/mobile-radio/radio-as-artconference-in-conversation-with-claudia-wegener-ofradio-continental-drift Website: radiocontinentaldrift.wordpress.com Additional audio files: www.alandunn67.co.uk/stimulusaudio.html
NEW ORLE ANS Images by Hervé Coutin Text by Hanne Ghesquiere
AFR I CA I S O FT E N DESCRIBED AS the problem continent, defined by poverty and failed states (Ferguson 2006). Seemingly, it has nothing to contribute to the current world order. But if that is true, why do we find expressions of African culture all over the world? In New Orleans, for example, a city with a long history of slavery and colonisation. New Orleans not only reflects a French and Spanish colonial history; African slaves and free of people of color have left a long and lasting impact on the city’s visible and invisible realm as well. Louisiana Voodoo, or New Orleans Voodoo, is one example of this African influence. Subjected to Western ethnocentrism, Voodoo has often been misrepresented as a primitive form of zombie worshipping or black magic. It is often categorised as the belief system of the ‘Other’, as the unknown and unknowable. As Mary Douglas (1966) already pointed out, the unclear is too often associated with the unclean, the uncanny, i.e. with danger. Unlike what is often believed, Voodoo has more to do with the West than we tend to recognise. It is a domain of life where boundaries are constantly challenged — boundaries between nature and supernature, life and death, past and present, Africa and not-Africa. Vudun, the African predecessor of what we now know as Voodoo, was brought to the western hemisphere in the 17th century, as the religion of Benin and Nigerian slaves in Haiti. Vudun has its own symbols, such as the snake, the crossroads and the skull, which should also be read in their own context, i.e. as symbols of wisdom,
inclusion and the ancestors respectively. The tourist industry and popular media, however, have claimed these symbols to be representations of evil, in accordance with Roman Catholic symbols. After the Louisiana purchase, a large number of Haitians migrated to Louisiana. At that time, many Central African slaves had already been residing in Louisiana and New Orleans, having their own neo-African belief system that was often based on a belief in the spirits of the death, and on Roman Catholicism, the religion of the opressor (Fandrich 2007). Ultimately, Haiti Voodoo merged with the already existing neo-African religion in New Orleans, creating something new. The Afro-American population did not reject Roman Catholicism, but paradoxically mimicked it to resist opression. As Michael Taussig (1993: xiii) writes, “the wonder of mimesis lies in the copy drawing on the character and power of the original, to the point whereby the representation may even assume that character and power”. While Roman Catholicism and Voodoo are often thought of as irreconcileable, they have a lot in common. They share saints, holidays, ceremonies and symbols, such as the cross — a symbol of transcendence in both systems. Voodoo incorporates the history of Afro-Americans in Louisiana and reasserts African identity within its current context, to which the terms wrong or right, good or evil do not apply.
REFERENCES Douglas, Mary (1966) Purity and Danger. An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. Fandrich, Ina. J. (2007) Yoruba Influence on Haitian Vodou and New Orleans Voodoo. Journal of Black Studies 37(5): 775-791. Ferguson, James (2006) Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Taussig, Michael (1993) Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses London, UK: Routledge.
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