For those of us seeking to get our fix of media with substance, it’s time once again to take a hit of the Chronic. Chimurenga, the recalcitrant pan-African multimedia institution based in Cape Town, has just released the latest edition of its quarterly publication, the Chronic.
The Chronic, in its current manifestation (see our piece on the previous issue), is the synthesis of a revolutionary gazette, book review magazine and history-laden mixtape. Cross-pollinating genres and creative mediums, the Chronic seeks new ways to engage with past, present and future elements of African social and political lives.The specialty of the Chimurenga in all of their projects is to go deeper, to ask the questions not being asked and to share unexpected stories that had previously been obscured.
In this second Chronic, the writers and artists agitate the archive, creating new meaning for current events and relics alike. Within its 124-pages, we get a fresh review of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah that doesn’t pretend she’s the only Nigerian author since Chinua Achebe; a peek into the obsessive cult of personality that surrounds the stylish Cameroonian first lady Chantal Biya; a sonic, visual and literary journey through Cape Town’s jazz soundscape and much more.
Here is a sample of what the new Chronic iteration has to offer:
Artists and writers from around the world take on the philanthropic complex to unravel the philosophies of dependency and power at play in the civil society of African states. Paula Akugizibwe assumes observer status at the African Union to uncover the charm offensive that keeps the West in control, while Parselelo Kantai exposes the manufacture of post-election peace in Kenya. Also, we journey into the AU headquarters in the heat of the political crisis in Mali and speak with Raila Amollo Odinga about the arithmetic skills of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Elsewhere Yves Mintoogue and Adewale Maja-Pearce diagnose the First Lady Syndrome in the political patronage of Chantou Biya and Dame Jonathan; Agri Ismaïl eavesdrops in on Islamic finance after the market crash; Deji Toye looks at the Nigerian art of patronage; and Cédric Vincent exposes the political rhetoric that caused all the chaos at both Benin biennales of 2012. As an alternative, three pan-African art projects overcome maps and institutional bureaucracy through networks and synergies; Ghana’s controversial duo FOKN Bois fuck with the puritanical mores in the world’s most religious country; and we listen in on the rebirth of the new thing in Cape Town’s jazz scene.
The Chronic also goes back to university to recount seventeen stories of love and learning under the World Bank and interviews Fred Moten and Stefano Harney on the possibility of staging a revolution “with and for” the university.
The wide-ranging sports coverage kicks off with Bongani Kona’s reflection on Zimbabwean players in South African rugby. In addition, Simon Kuper points out Africa’s best footballers aren’t African and Akin Adesokan learns 24 tricks of the forehand from Roger Federer.
The Chronic Books supplement is a self-help guide on reading and writing. Learn how to be a Nigerian from Peter Enahoro, Nigeria’s ‘woman of letters’ and the masters of Onitsha Market Literature. Get advice on how to live and how to write from Mohsin Hamid and Werewere Liking; meet the next generation of playwrights; and find out why you should reading Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jose Saramago, Eric Miyeni, Andile Mngxitama, Gonçalo Tavares, Vivek Narayanan, Nthikeng Mohele, A. Igoni Barrett, Abdellatif Laâbi, Gabriela Jauregui and many more.
The unparalleled depth of the Chronic content makes conversations about the perceived rise and decline of an imagined Africa irrelevant. In going deep, many of the Chronic’s stories have multiple elements, an essay and an interview or visual graphic that act as complementary vantage points.
With all that it has to offer, experiencing the Chronic is to abandon an idle mind. The words and images found in the Chronic have a tendency to defy simple consumption, instead they command engagement and challenge the reader’s understanding of (sub)cultures and history. This process is captured with perfect brevity in Chimurenga’s slogan: who no know go know.
Always at the cutting edge, what you find in the Chronic now is what myopic CNN will be reporting on in a year or two once they finally think they’ve “discovered” something novel. By then of course, the Chimurenga team will have joined with other like-minded creatives in influencing the future of social thought among those who are ready to be challenged.
Over the next few weeks we’ll take a closer look at what’s inside The Chronic to see if it lives up to its legacy.
The Chimurenga Chronic is out now in print and digital versions. Pick it up here and join the conversation.