What is it?
Chimurenga was launched in 2002 by writer and DJ Ntone Edjabe. He attended the University of Lagos but was "educated" by Nigerian musician and radical thinker Fela Kuti. In 1993, Edjabe relocated to Cape Town and set up the Pan African Market as a space for the free flow of ideas and projects in a context marred by xenophobia.
In 2002 he launched Chimurenga magazine to collect and
distribute original perspectives on the contemporary African experience. It
offers fresh interpretations, analyses, poetry, and photography by leading thinkers,
writers, journalists, and practitioners in various disciplines from Africa and
Chimurenga’s network of cutting-edge contributors has
gained an audience that includes public intellectuals, social leaders, and
activists, both in Africa and internationally.
The magazine’s 2,500 print-run
is distributed to enthusiastic followers, and selected articles are posted on the
website and available as "pocket literature". Its titles include "Music is The
Weapon", "Black Gays and Mugabes", and 'The Curriculum is Everything".
Over the years, Chimurenga has developed into a series of publications, cultural projects, and public events called the Chimurenga Sessions. It is now a mutable object, taking shape as a print magazine, a website, a workspace, and a platform for editorial and curatorial activities.
"The Chronic is one small, deeply subjective attempt to do things differently. We recognised the newspaper—a popular medium that raises the perennial question of news and newness, of how we define both the now and history, as the means to best engage the present.”
“We selected the medium both for its disposability and its longevity, its ability to fashion routine in a way that allows us to traverse, challenge and negotiate liminality in everyday life.”
In 2013, The Chimurenga Chronic was founded as a quarterly gazette, in an effort to challenge the newspapers' historical role as a tool of nationalism. Ntone Edjabe:"In many ways the Chronic is a self-administered antidote to the easy certainties of mainstream journalism."
The pan-African production of The Chronic unites
journalists, editors, writers, theorists, photographers, illustrators,
and artists from around Africa and the world to critical debate and the
exchange of ideas about Africa. Each issue of The Chronic is published
online, but can be read in print too.
How does it work?
The research platform of The Chimurenga Chronic is called The Chimurenga Newsroom blog. An aggregator of ideas, sources and discussion, it taps into the extraordinary potential of online and offline media and selects, organizes and shares the information.
On the public forum, visitors can read article briefs, interact in editorial discussions and access reading lists. The blog also functions as an open-source archive, documenting the projects’ research process and progress.
In the Chronic, Africans write about Africa as they see it, both taking from and contributing to the 21st century emergence of truly global sources of news reflecting multiple points of view and cultural diversity. As the blog Africa is a country states in their masthead: ”It’s not about famine, Bono or Barack Obama.”
use of media and collaborations, Chimurenga’s activities also include The Chimurenga Library,
an unique online archive of independent African cultural periodicals, and two
editions of the Pan African Space Station, a 30-day series of live performances
and radio broadcasts expanding notions of African music from ancient techno to
Chimurenga also co-produces the African Cities Reader, an online journal and biennial print publication about African urban life, featuring stories by Africans drawing their own maps and representing their spatial topographies; and Pilgrimages, an attempt to counter media distortions through literary journalism by inviting fourteen African writers to visit an explore the complex urban landscapes of fourteen African cities.
Why did they make it?
Historian Achille Mbembe: "The start of the 21st century in Africa was marked by an acute sense of urgency and the utopia of the radically new (…). An immense will to be heard seemed to surge from the entrails of the continent and a new era of African Renaissance seemed at hand. Chimurenga was born to serve as a vehicle to this immense will to be heard."
"An urgent need to write our world differently"
Chimurenga is a Shona word from Zimbabwe, which loosely translates as (revolutionary) struggle, referring to both freedom struggles and Zimbabwean rebel music.
Founding editor Ntone Edjabe emphasizes that Chimurenga it is not only about South Africa, but about a search for confrontation between African perspectives on Africa. "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. When will the new emerge—and if it is already here, how do we decipher it?"
“Contrary to numerous cultural projects that preceded it, Chimurenga does not articulate a hierarchical voice from above. Nor does it promote the idea of one predominant way of being African. It is an interface, a node, an open text whose function is to attract other texts.
Its aesthetics and design is radically open-ended, framed in the genre of selecting, cutting and pasting that is so characteristic of the new technological moment. It draws its material from various streams, from audio to video, including the artforms of everyday life in African megalopolises.
It uses the viral potential of the digital age as a mode of dissemination. It invents radically heterodox, even heretic, ideas that can be easily forwarded, redistributed, quoted and translated. It operates as a broadcaster, an amplifier, in a continent that has always been, and has now more than ever become, a continent-in-motion in a world-in-motion.” Achille Mbembe, in: Prince Claus Fund Awards Book, 2012
A producer of time
A special project, published on October 2011 (as issue 16 of Chimurenga magazine) was The Chimurenga Chronic. This was a once-off edition of a fictional newspaper, backdated to the week of 18-24 May 2008, a period marked by the outbreak of so-called xenophobic violence in South Africa.
The edition imagines the newspaper as a producer of time—a
time-machine. The 128-page multi-section broadsheet features news, analysis, and
long-form journalism, and provides an alternative to representations of these
events in recent history by filling in some of the gaps.
Chimurenga’s objective was not to revisit the past to bring about closure, but rather to provoke and challenge perceptions, encourage reflection, and re-open the discussion.
Why did we select it?
Chimurenga has been selected for the quality, originality, and impact of their productions, for creatively using networks to challenge established definitions of journalism, and for their commitment to independent journalism and intellectual autonomy.
"Chimurenga changes your view of Africa, and of journalism"
Chimurenga is an effective and innovative pan-African, multimedia publication, which is networked across the continent and beyond, presenting multiple voices on various media platforms, including online, print, public sessions, and art exhibitions. It has a unique focus on new African aesthetics and visual storytelling, drawing in outstanding artists and storytellers from various disciplines.
Through Chimurenga, photographers, cartoonists, artists, and journalists work closely together to tell multi-layered stories and to show multiple points of views on social, cultural, and political issues concerning Africa, contributing to a deeper understanding of cultural diversity in African countries. The editors add analyses and reflection to news stories.
Chimurenga’s capacity to influence ideas, its literary writing, and its role as an innovative educational model have been recognized internationally. According to Simon Kuper of The Financial Times “Chimurenga changes your view of Africa, and of journalism.”
The cultural and
intellectual journalism developed by Chimurenga is unique in the world, not
only because of its pan-African scope, but also because of close collaboration
between writers, journalists, artists, and designers.
Chimurenga’s effort to bring multiple perspectives on the same story is also found
in Metropolis and Global Voices.
Other pan-African journalism initiatives include the Forum for African Investigative Reporters, and an example of a pan-African cultural platform is Sparck, which offers arts residencies, publications and workshops and focuses on urban life thematically.