“Angazi, but I'm sure”
“Angazi, but I’m sure” is a common South African phrase. In English it means: “I don’t know, but I am sure”. It is a deliberately self-contradictory phrase that is usually spoken in prelude to a reply – often, when one is asked for directions or facts. “Angazi, but I'm sure if you turn left you will get there”; “Angazi, but I’m sure they will start at 9pm”. The respondent is uncertain – of what they “know”. Or, perhaps, they are certain, but they do not know how to speak it. Or, they know, but do not know what they know. Sharing knowledge in this way requires mutual trust – it is speculation, in every sense of the word.
“Angazi, but I’m sure” is a break between our linguistic selves and a world, between knowledge and our ability to speak or map it – the knowledge that is elevated as finished product. The phrase suggests that arriving is as much about displacement as about place. More urgently, it affirms lived experience, improvisation and imagination as themselves forms of knowledge. It calls for a knowing through seeking and a constant transforming and renewing of our image of the world. Finally, it is an expression of community: “I know you will find the way”.
How do we learn to know what we know? How can we draw from disparate and often intersecting practices through which we stylise our conduct and daily life on the continent? How do we harness the inventiveness, the generative resilience and the agility with which we live?
This requires not only a new set of questions, but its own set of tools; new practices and methodologies that allow us to engage the lines of flight, of fragility, the precariousness, as well as joy and creativity and beauty that define the contemporary African moment.
Chimurenga has long considered the shebeen (illegal drinking tavern) as a college of music. Can we draw on the improvisational, pedagogical method of black musics, where learning is collapsed into performing, and teachers and learners share the stage? How do we embrace knowledge not as information but as a methodology – a way of learning that expresses the conditions of our lives, our very existence. Can we take seriously food as knowledge, music as research and pan-Africanism as a practice? What if maps were made by Africans for their own use, to understand and make visible their own realities and imaginaries? What could the curriculum be – if it was designed by the people who dropped out of school so that they could breathe?
These are some of the queries this session explored, via the forms and media we use – such as cartography, comics, library-making, music, food, broadcasting and publishing, and in collaboration with Yemisi Aribisala, Neo Muyanga, Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Ibou Fall, Dominique Malaquais, Jihan el Tahri, Kodwo Eshun, Clapperton Mavhunga, Philippe Rekacewicz, Felwine Sarr, Lionel Manga, Victor Gama, Laila Soliman.
Photo: Untitled ©Funsho Ogundipe, courtesy of Chimurenga
Drawing together myriad voices from across Africa and the diaspora, Chimurenga takes many forms operating as platform for free ideas and political reflection about Africa by Africans – its motto draws from Felasophy: who no know go know. Outputs include a journal of culture, art and politics of the same name, a quarterly broadsheet called The Chronic, The Chimurenga Library – an online resource of collected independent pan-African periodicals and personal books, and the Pan African Space Station (PASS) – an online music radio station and pop-up studio.
The aim of these projects is not only to produce new knowledge, but to express the intensities our world and to capture those forces, to act.
On the method:
New Cartographies – How do we shift knowledge about and from Africa from “what it should be” to what we experience and imagine it to be? How do we make visible what is emerging or re-emerging across the continent? Our reality cannot only be mapped by GDP, GDS, IDF and indicators of “development”. Scales, set squares and compasses alone would not work; we also require hands, feet and hearts. And memory – memory is the art of the stateless.
Pan African Space Station (PASS) – a periodic, pop-up live studio; mobile performance and exhibition space; research lab and living archive; and ongoing, internet based radio station. Working in transitory spaces and between different fields, organising sound, music and words into new forms of knowledge, PASS challenges the boundaries between live performance and studio recording, documentation and archiving, and dissemination and broadcasting.
Chimurenga Library – How we forge communities; produce and circulate knowledge and operate in the border zones between informal/formal, licit/illicit, chaotic/ordered, etc. Research includes Panafest – the story of four pan African festivals that shaped public cultures on the continent (Dakar 66, Algiers 69, Kinshasa 74 and Lagos 77). Our research has yielded an eclectic repository of stories and anecdotes, digital copies of documents, artworks, images, sound and film footage, as well as books, magazines and albums. Our methodology is often closer to detective work, replete with entirely unexpected fortuitous coincidences, even encounters with ghosts, allegorical and otherwise.
Comics and the Lower Frequencies – Challenging the boundaries between high and low art, cartooning and comic, art and popular culture, Lower Frequencies engages public and popular forms of expression that insert themselves directly into daily life. Taking inspiration from popular comics, we invite participants to work in media that push representational limits and create a hinge between the world of concepts and the world of bodily experience.
The Chronic and the new(s) paper – a pan African gazette borne out of an urgent need to write our world differently, to begin asking new questions, or even the old ones anew. The Chronic hijacks the newspaper – a popular medium that raises questions of news and newness, disposability and longevity and how we define both the now and history – to blow the distinction between fact/fiction in quest for truth and sidesteps linear notions of time/place to document the fluidity of contemporary life.