One of the highlights for me at the recently ended Maun International Arts Festival was the launch in Botswana of Chimurenga Chronic by the infectiously motivating Khulusego “Khuli” Molutsi.
The launch took place at Nhabe Museum during the launch of the book exhibition there.
Khuli explained how she came across Chimurenga, the literary journal based in South Africa, when she was a student in Cape Town.
It opened up her eyes, and when she came home she wanted to help let Batswana see what she saw.
Now she is the distributor of the newspaper version of Chimurenga- Chimurenga Chronic- and she wants Batswana to read it and to eventually write for it.
So what is Chimurenga Chronic. You would undermine it if you said it was a PanAfrican newspaper on the arts.
That would be boxing it in a space where it cannot be contained.
According to their website- “It is a publication borne out of an urgent need to write our world differently, to begin asking new questions, or even the old ones anew….” It wants to answer questions such as “When will the new emerge and if it is already here, how do we decipher it?
In which ways do people live their lives with joy and creativity and beauty, sometimes amid suffering and violence, and sometimes perpendicular to it?
How do people fashion routines and make sense of the world in the face of the temporariness or volatility that defines so many of the arrangements of social existence here?”
It is a place where Africans can finally get a look at what other Africans are doing around the continent in a true way- not first filtered through off-the-continent eyes tainted with their old Africa-is-a-problem perspectives.
Chimurenga Chronic looks at art, and comments on politics and other aspects of our lives on the continent.
The writing is fresh and exciting. The thinking too.
It is the connecting of free minded Africans from all corners of the continent, having probably the most engaging conversation you’re going to come across for some time.
An example is “It’s Only a Matter of Acceleration Now” by Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina.
It is a perfect example of writing and thinking that will blow your mind and make you re-assess as a writer about how you do things and think things.
It presents itself as an interview of Youssou N’Dour, the Senegalese musician, written as a list of 95 points.
It is that but it is much more than that.
Chimurenga Chronic features not only creative nonfiction and various other forms of prose, but also photographic essays, graphic novels, and cartoons. Included with the newspaper is the insert Chronic Books.
Here you’ll find authors and poets writing about their life.
I particularly loved South African author, Kgebetli Moele’s take on his experience at the Iowa Writers Programme, it was hilarious.
It also includes more traditional book reviews of books not normally covered in the mainstream press.
The paper has news from Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea, from Nigeria and Angola, from South Africa and Cameroon, among others.
It is a fantastic insight into the real African arts scene, not the one fed to us from CNN or Granta.
And then you have other things like a cartoon that depicts Prince’s hairstyles every year from 1978 to 2013. How can you not love that?
But what is lacking in Chimurenga Chronic is any voice from Botswana- even a peep.
Khuli wants that to change. She’s trying her best to get the newspaper into shops so people can read it.
She’s tried Botswana Book Centre and Exclusive Books, and as anyone knows who has tried to get them to sell their books, it is a slog, and she has, as most of us do, failed.
For the moment, if you want to get a copy of Chimurenga Chronic you can email her at [email protected] or phone her at 76932030. You can get a peek of what Chimurenga Chronic is about by visiting their website here- http://chimurengachronic.co.za/.
And let’s get our voices in there. Write about the art scene in Bots. Write about the political situation from an artistic slant.
Send your cartoons that critique our lives. Send your photo essays that show how we live: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Let’s join the movement and become part of the conversation.