Transition magazine was founded in Kampala, Uganda in 1961 by editor: Rajat Neogy. Associate Editors: Francis Kasura, Don Mann, Ganesh Bagchi. Cover and Artwork: Helen Calogeropoulos.



Cannibal Logic an interview with Michael C.Vazquez by Carina del Valle Schorske, in Transition 106, 2011.

Annotations in Transition with

Michael C.Vazquez & Kodwo Eshun, Frankfurt/Main 2019

On the picture: Rajat Neogy (right) with Wole Soyinka.

The artistic research project Electronic Textures, realised at Trondheim Academy of Fine Art/NTNU (2016-2018), reads, revisits, curates concepts of history through an encounter with pan-African, tricontinental magazines published from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s. These periodicals evince a certain immediacy in look and outlook in their quest for a new type of language and aesthetics, as well as politics. Indexing authors, editors, and designers with publishing information gives rise to other narratives—making visible an array of collaborative international networks, as well as the power relationships and shifting fronts that underwrote cultural production during the Cold War.

In collaboration with with Ayodele Arigbabu, John Akomfrah (JA), Filipa Cesar, Jihan El-Tahri (JET), Kodwo Eshun (KE), Nida Ghouse (NG), Laura Horelli (LH), Christopher Wessel (CW) and Ahmed Al-Nawas, Ibrahima Wane (IW), Michael C. Vazquez (MV) and more to come. Project management, curation, display, editor Annett Busch (AB). 


John Akomfrah: The cover is interesting. As you read that poem from the first issue, I was thinking it’s possible to move beyond a sort of for and against thing… If we recognize it as something like an encrypted ontology, Transition as a Gutenbergian body if you will. There’s a way in which Neogy announces the beginnings of the journal—it launches itself almost as if it is a new body which will be about the trying to gather other new bodies, a violent eruption of body in knowledge. 

And the cover is so interesting for that because it says, in the effort to create this body we will do several things by heeding several things at the same time. One of which might be vanguardism. We might have a proximity to vanguardism via modernism. This looks exactly like an opening magazine, the opening edition of the new left review which looks like every other magazine. So you have this relationship to vanguardism but the proximity would be qualified. We would use, let’s say Mondrian-like geometry but just undercut it with a little of organicism, you know, so that the front may look like it’s Mondrian but actually  it’s designed by Helen Calogeropoulos

And in the process of trying to give life to this body, there will quite literally be other forms of proximity. I actually think Okigbo is more Pound than he is any other figure because the opening poem looks like The Cantos. It’s called The Limits, but it looks like The Cantos. It even has a number root, roman numerals, I-IV. And interestingly it’s called Siren. So this question of the siren call will also define what the measure, that proximity will be—it will be close, but not close enough to be fully a state. We will be close to vanguardism of the leftist variety but we will not be that. You know. We will be close to the history of modernism but not quite because we have other things in mind, we will be close to the founding texts of modernism…. but inserted between us and then something called Africanism, you know, that’s about to inaugurate itself. And in that sense, the question of mission is not accidental or coincidental. The fact that you will not find C.L.R. James or a diatribe on Nkrumah except as a kind of criticlater on in 1966 and frankly we wouldn’t see Fanon or any of the others sort of inaugurated figures of the discourse on Africanism — is logical, consistent and absolutely legitimate in my view. It says I am a new body and I have to be taken seriously in my own terms. So let’s do that. Let’s take it very very seriously for what it is, which is new formative ontology which enacts itself very differently to all projects, but …


Kodwo Eshun: What does independence feel like at a distance? What are the connections replayed and transmitted at a distance? And how can a magazine render the epic event of inauguration—understood as a simultaneity of sensorial states.


Kampala, 1961

"Tashkent 1958. I try and imagine it for a moment.The first conference of the Afro-Asian Writers is in session. Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the poet represent- ing Pakistan, is there. I find archival images on the internet: W. E. B. Du Bois lecturing into a bunch of microphones, meeting with the Nigerian delegation, chatting with the Chinese, raising his arms in affirmation with others."

Tashkent, 1958

Transition 11, Bessie Head: Letter from South Africa — For a friend, 'D.' 'B.' read by Louise Mutabazi  (1963/2020)

"Imagine the editor being a Third World vanguard person ...."

How did these demarcations things happen? 


Kodwo Eshun: A division of the production of knowledge


And these are texts which we could characterise as a kind of Africanism developed through an area studies discourse, an area studies which, as Jihan pointed out, is formulated in the post-war era in the American University system. And what we begin to see when we read Transition not with an eye to its exceptional figures but with an eye to its more normative … with an eye to the figures that do not draw attention to themselves but which none the less tend to dominate the magazine, and what we see is a kind of area studies Africanism which specialises in producing something like progress reports on the success and failure of the new governments of the new nation states. And what we see is something like a division of labour by which professors from different universities in the US and the UK compete with each other to provide evermore elaborate readings, evermore elaborate assessments of the present and future prognoses of the state as against writers from across the continent who, with important exceptions, tend to produce the fictions the poetry and the dramas. So there tends to be a distinction which is adopted in the division of the production of knowledge. 


Bongani Madondo: Diggin’ or (Yes, Mr.Neogy, Magazines Do Culture... Sometimes)

"...the storylines about their editors, their specific in-betweenness, and what this position might produce. Imagine the editor being a collaborator, a facilitator, an orchestrating driving force whose labor shapes but disappears in the work of others, hardly traceable in the end."

By then, 1965, Colette Omogbai was already in London, living in Islington, studying at the Slade, where Ibrahim Salahi had studied a decade earlier, where the Guyanese polymath Denis Williams had taught before abandoning a bright career as one of Britain’s leading black artists to research culture and art in Africa.  All three of them were involved in the Mbari Club for Artists and Writers in Ibadan, Nigeria. Ulli Beier, Mbari’s co-founder and animateur, had met Salahi in Khartoum early in 1961 and came away convinced that the unknown Sudanese painter was Africa’s greatest living artist. Salahi’s first major exhibition was one of the club’s inaugural events, and the occasion for one of its first publications. Omogbai’s August 1963 debut seemed equally auspicious. Beier sent photographs of her paintings to the leadership of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) in Paris, including K. A. Jelenski, proudly announcing the arrival of “a new Mbari artist.”.

Michael C. Vazquez, What is Surrealism? Reading Agony with Tchicaya O' Tamsi, in: Women on AeroplanesInflight Magazine No3, In Conversation.

Ibadan, 1959

What sorts of knowledge can be carried over to new audiences, decades on?

A kind of experimental Art School 

Jihan El-Tahri: How did these demarcations things happen?

These names keep popping up, Samuel Huntington, Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, in connection to area studies. And then I start thinking, why are they investing $350,000,000 annually to create this discipline throughout American universities. What is the aim? What is the ultimate goal of this? It is a lot of money at the time and this having been retained as the best methodology to think up a new world order which then includes reacting to African independences—I could not see the connection.

Then I suddenly realised that it's all about brainwashing in a different formula. Actually we are talking about the same thing, it's just colonialism in a different format. But in a format that you can hardly combat because this “education” becomes who you are. And as Huntington, Ajami, Lewis and others kept popping up it freaked me out. Because that's me! And that's how I get to the point of saying I'm not only a product of this system, I am exactly what the system was designed to do. I am what they wanted to design. And me being the rebel, they got me! How did they get me?


Annett Busch: Letter to the Editor 

How to address the Scope of Liberal Positions with and within the South African Magazines? 

"Ronald Segal, editor and founder of Africa Southis a son of a prominent Cape Townian Jewish garment family who is or was a Trotskyist, although I’m not sure precisely what sort. ... He starts Africa South in 1956 and he wants it to be capacious. He’s like, “There is no place where people are talking to each other, or arguing with each other,” and so he wants it to represent all of the factions that are in play at the time."

I am in Cairo. History is impossible.The year is 2012. A friend and I are walking in midsummer heat against midday traffic along Qasr al-Aini—the road on which I came to live in early 2007. We’ve both been away a while and don’t quite know what to make of the man climbing, somewhat impishly, over to the graffitied side of the army wall on the corner of Sheikh Rehan Street. We’re looking for Dar al-Odaba. Number 104. If we were to be approaching the other way, with the cars, from Mounira or Garden City, coming towardTahrir, we’d find it on our left, right after Barclays, or so I’ve been told. That is to say I used to pass the place, oblivious of it, back and forth, on my route, almost every other day.

Cairo, 1968-78 / 2012

"Speaking about CCF magazines, speaking about funding ...."

Segal had always insisted on keeping a distance to any institution, and he refused to have a board—he did it all alone. In collaboration—but in conversation with the authors and not with a committee arguing and negotiating the policy of the journal. Being dependent independent dependent. The roster of sponsors constantly grew, but from the beginning it included prominent figures from the US Civil Rights Movement and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Nicolas Nabokov, the CCF secretary general, appears rather late in the list of sponsors, first in the July–September 1959 issue, after Segal had been on a speaking tour of US college campuses that year to promote an economic boycott of South Africa. Also, when it became publicly known in 1967 that the CCF was not funded by an “unnamed charitable foundation in the United States” but by the CIA, it had been six years since Africa South had ceased to exist. 


Something within the word “capacious” triggered the idea of turning the magazine into an image, a collage—an interface, a tool. Names. To see all those who made the crowd at once. Author credits, lists of contributors, to remember the many, many who are new for me, but known to others. Memory cards generating algorithms as entry points for research that lead to obituaries in the Guardian but also finally to different networks, positions, communities, languages. It became a different way to read the magazines. The notion of capaciousness also hinted that the history of liberals and liberalism in South Africa might be more complex than I imagined—mainly what you called the radicalizing over the course of the 1950s, fighting the more complacent elements in the Liberal Party itself.

Ronald Segal & Oliver Tambo 

“Did we notice, in those pre-feminist days, that so few were women?”

Cape Town, 1956 / London 1962

Kodwo Eshun: Good afternoon. I was really pleased to hear you talking about Ruth First, she’s a hero of mine, for many people. But, you don’t hear so much about her these days. I am a big fan of The Barrel of a Gun: Political Power in Africa and the Coup d’Etat, her analysis of military coups on the continent, her case studies of Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan, I think it’s a phenomenal book. I think it’s the other essential book on the dilemmas of decolonisation, after The Wretched of the Earth. Going back to the critiques Ruth First faced within the party—how much do you think that has to do with the roles she played as an academic, an activist, a comrade, a public figure, a public intellectual? She was good at building communities around her, but I’ve also read that she was quite isolated. Who were her main interlocutors? Who was she in dialogue with when she was working out her ideas?

"Nothing is stopping us except us." Jihan El-Tahri & Kodwo Eshun in conversation with Sue Rabkin, 2020. Women on Aeroplanes, Inflight Magazine no 6, 2021.

Winnie Mandela and Ruth First in 1963, photo by Mary Benson.

Ronald Segal: In Sight of the End

"In White South Africa, faith in the indivisibility of Freedom is the cardinal heresy, a blaspheming of the Colour Bar in whose image the State has been raised. For South Africans there has always existed an `apartheid' in Freedom, and the Whites have condoned and. encouraged the division persistently, in a desparate faith of their own that the more freedom they took away from others, the more they would have to themselves.

But inevitably, quite the opposite of what they have believed and planned has happened . Because Freedom is, finally, indivisible, the freedoms they would have safeguarded and, increased. by their denial of them to others--freedom of belief and its public expression, freedom of movement and association, freedom of government election, and, above all, freedom from fear----they have denied to themselves...."

Africa South, Vol 1. No 1, Oct. - Dec. 1956

Ruth First: The Barrel of a Gun. Political Power in Africa and the Coup d'État. Pinguin Press, UK 1970. Advisory editor: Ronald Segal

Kodwo Eshun reading the introduction.

"Ronald Segal and Ruth First were very close."

In terms of a timeline: The last issue of Africa South, which by then is Africa South in Exile, is published at the end of 1961; the first issue of The New African appears in January 1962, out of Cape Town again—sixteen pages, filled with texts by Ndabaningi Sithole, Trevor Bush, R. N. Nordau, Anthony Delius, Peter Cod, Leslie Rubin, T.R.V. Beard, Dennis Brutus, and Vigne. Many more joined as the number of issues increased, but “Did we notice, in those pre-feminist days, that so few were women?” is a question that Vigne and Currey would only ask decades later, when they wrote the journal’s short history.

Randolph Vigne and James Currey, “The New African 1962–1969: South Africa in Particular and Africa in General,” English in Africa, vol. 41, no. 1 (2014), pp. 55–73.

Cape Town, 1962 / London 1969

Ronald Segal: A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

 “A NEWSPAPER or magazine is not merely a weight of paper and ink, a profit and loss account with accumulated assets or liabilities, even a little library of facts and opinions. It is a living creature, which develops its individual personality, sometimes irresistibly itself, so that those who own or edit it find that they are not so much shaping its character as being shaped by it themselves. It carries the moods and thoughts of those who have inhabited its pages, but alters these features with a life that is all its own, so that it grows distinct from its inheritance. Such a being one does not close down; one has to kill it. And he who has started it and grown with it, till the lives of publisher and published have inextricably intermingled, kills also a part of himself.

This is the twenty-first issue of Africa South since its founding in 1956. It is also the last. If the decision to end it is likely to distress anyone, it will surely not surprise. No magazine of opinion can survive without lavish advertisements or subsidy; that is the cost of the printed word today. 'Africa South' has never received sufficient from advertisements to pay for more than the printing of its cover. It has been subsidised all along, by sympathetic readers and organisations, and by myself. While I was able to publish it in South Africa, I was able to contribute substantially to its cost. I can contribute no longer. In August the South African Government refused me the right to transfer any of the funds I have in South Africa to Britain….”

Africa South, Vol 6. No 1, Oct - Dec. 1961


Sue Rabkin: I grew up in a part of London in which many of the white South Africans came to stay when they left South Africa after the first State of Emergency in the early 1960s. There was thus an influx of South Africans into my local school, and I started to have many South African friends. My political involvement began around the age of fifteen when I went on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) marches in the early 1960s. From thereon, I became more and more politically involved.

Among the South African friends in my circle was David Rabkin, aged fourteen years and newly arrived from Cape Town. We became involved, on and off, for many years until he recruited me, via the Algerian Communist Party and a Syrian Communist Party Central Committee member, into the South African Communist Party (SACP). We married in 1972, and went to live in Cape Town, as members of the SACP and part of the SACP underground machinery. We operated clandestinely in Cape Town for four years producing SACP and ANC propaganda until we were arrested in 1976. David was sentenced to eight and a half years, and I was sentenced to three years which was suspended, and I only had to serve a one-month incarceration. During that one month I gave birth to my second child. I was then de- ported back to Britain.
One year later, I was asked by the Chairman of the SACP if I would work with Mac Maharaj who had recently been released from Robben Island after serving a fifteen-year sentence. He had smuggled out of prison Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, No Easy Walk to Freedom. I typed out the first draft of the manuscript. During the two and a half years we worked on the Mandela book, Mac was deployed by the Revolutionary Council of the ANC to head up what was then called “Internal Political Reconstruction” which was, as the name suggests, the apparatus charged with creating the underground machinery of the ANC inside South Africa. Because of my experience working in the underground, I was then deployed in Maputo to carry out this task

there’s a different story if you’re reading it forward from the 1930s. To recall the factions fighting the Spanish Civil War …so many of the journals of the Congress for Cultural Freedom in the 1950s are edited by people who fought in the Spanish Civil War. Several of them were actually part of the Durutti Column….


Randolph Vigne and James Currey:

The New African 1962—1969: South Africa in Particular and Africa in General

In 1962 a group of liberals in Cape Town founded The New African as a radical review of politics and the arts. It set out to cover the new Africa in general and South Africa in particular. At that time many countries in Africa were gaining their independence and this group intended that a non-racial democratic South Africa would join them sooner rather than later. The editors set out to leam from, to criticise and rejoice in the changes which were happening in the far away north of the African continent. Thanks especially to Zeke Mphahlele the journal was always introducing to South Africa work by new writers such as Soyinka, Ngugi, Bessie Head, Dennis Brutus, Ayi Kwei Armah and Mazisi Kunene. In 1964 Special Branch harassment increased: the office was closed, the addressograph plates removed, all copies of the March issue seized at the Post Office, printer threatened, and a charge of obscenity and blasphemy brought for certain words like "Jeeweesus" in a shebeen story by Can Themba. The last South African issue was in July 1964, as three editors escaped in dangerously dramatic ways. The New African continued in London from March 1965 and free copies were sent to old subscribers in South Africa under a succession of fake mastheads to slip past the postal authorities. 

In January 2014 all 53 issues were put up on line free to view: 

English in Africa, Vol. 41, No. 1 (MAY 2014), pp. 55-73

"We wrote that The New African by the move to London ‘had resolved to go on... It will continue to do so in a manner not to be vouchsafed here’. This was the ingenious production of a special South African edition with a succession of pseudonymous/device/trick/fake/disguised mastheads to evade seizure in the post en route to subscribers, libraries and a few remaining agents (some of whom had suffered arrest.) The journal was distributed free in South Africa after subscriptions ran out. It took almost a year until February 1966 for Inkululeko to be banned after 9 issues (July 1965 – March 1966). Frontier survived for 6 issues (April – December 1966). Then as the South African authorities at last tumbled to our ruse we had to invent new names each time as each new name would be banned: Insight (March 1967), Watchword (October 1967), Sentinel (March 1968), Vanguard (June 1968) and Onward (No 52 in 1969) . It was an expensive and troublesome process.


The New African — Cape Town and London, 1962-1970. Promoting the "advance of a united Africa and the liberation of its southern peoples.' 

Bessie Head: Let me tell a story now...  read by Louise Mutabazi (1962 / 2020)

Randolph Vigne continued his political support in London and engaged in the struggle for liberation with the South West African People’s Organization in Namibia until the late 1980s. He would turn the vulnerable point of the secret CIA funding into an offensive position, not for the defense of the journals’ protagonists but to underline the impact of a meaningful use of the means, wherever they came from, as something that can’t be taken away through reinterpretation. Years later, Namibian anti-apartheid activist and politician Sam Nujoma mentions, Vigne having been very supportive in shaping his 2001 autobiography, Where Others Wavered.

Johannesburg, 1963 

In 1963, the literary journal The Classic: Johannesburg Quarterly is out in the world, founded by the writer Nat Nakasa, another former member of the Drum magazine crew. The journal opens up a space for black writing and sets literature as an entry point into politics—but probably these guys aren’t “poets” either. “The Classic is as non-political as the life of a domestic servant, the life of a Dutch Reformed Church predikant or that of an opulent Johannesburg business man” reads part of the editorial of the first issue.

Randolph Vigne: SWAPO of Namibia: A Movement in Exile. Third World Quarterly, Vol 9. No 1. The Politics in Exile (Jan 1987), 85-107.

Printed in the GDR ... 

Laura Horelli: In the Underground, behind the Car Retailer and in the Suburb


The South West Africa People’s Organization’s English-language journal Namibia Today was printed in former East Germany between 1980 and 1985. Its editorial board was based in exile in Luanda, Angola.

LH: The public artwork Namibia Today, consisting of 18 billboards at the Schillingstraße underground station in Berlin, part of nGbK’s Art in the Underground program, became to starting point for an ongoing project on the history and current situation of the news- paper. In May 2017 I travelled to Windhoek to find out more about the magazine from a Namibian perspective. I was able to contact some of the people I had come across in the archival material used in the billboards. The contribution below presents a selection of sound recordings made in Windhoek – more precisely those with Peter Katjavivi, Tsoombe Ndadi and Tarah Shinavene. Interviews are often transcribed and if one works with film, bits of text are arranged within a script to decide what functions best dramaturgically. I arranged the transcriptions on some walls to imitate this working method.

Through the interviews I learned about the many entanglements between Namibia,
East Germany and the Nordic countries. The training of Namibian printers in Elverum, Norway to set up a self-sustained printing house in Lusaka, Zambia, was probably one
of the reasons leading to termination of the publishing of Namibia Today in the GDR. Several of the Namibians I met in Windhoek had studied at the International Institute of Journalism Werner Lambertz in Berlin-Friedrichshagen. The school closed after the collapse of the GDR, but continued some of its work as the association IIJB e.V. It existed until earlier this year, located in Hoppegarten behind several car retailers.

Opening of the SWAPO Office in Berlin-Pankow, 13.10.1978 with Kurt Seibt, Sam Nujoma, Obed Emvula, Egon Winkelmann, Kapuka Nauyala. Foto: Axel Lemke, Archiv Neues Deutschland. Bilboards,  a project by Laura Horelli

Johannesburg 1978-1993

Stacy Hardy; Black Consciousness, Black Holes, Black Suns, and Black Collectivity.

On independent journals like Staffrider, Chimurenga, Frank Talk among others.

John Akomfrah: I mean, it’s just riffing on this notion of afterlives, it’s kind of interesting for me now how much two prisoners, in other words two figures who were products of two very distinct carceral regimes end up being the most influential figures in the 1970s. Antonio Gramsci and George Jackson. It’s interesting for me because one of the things which led us to Jackson in a way was a phrase. At the end of Jo Durden-Smith’s book Who Killed George Jackson?, he tells this story about how George Jackson was killed. So George Jackson, political prisoner in San Quentin, knows his end has come and he charges at a group of prison warden officers, saying “the dragon’s come” and the dragon quite literally came for us. The dragon has come, he says. And this enigmatic phrase haunted most people of my generation. We really wanted to understand what he meant by this elliptical phrase. The dragon has come. Well, I think on one hand he means in classic Hegelian terms the completion of self-realisation. I have now made myself, I am totally complete. And in a way it doesn’t matter they fuck you ... I have arrived. I’ve made it and I’ve arrived. But I think he also means something else, which is partly Hegelian, partly not, which is you know ... there’s almost a scatological ideal in which he realises he is now pure spirit. That almost, in a way, the killing of him is what will free him from that space. That he’s about to go global by his death and he did. Because there are so many of us, well for instance Random House almost certainly wouldn’t ... George Jackson would not have been interesting in the same way he was had he not been killed. And he certainly wouldn’t have had the aura of martyrdom that he came to embody without that killing. And many of us who read those books went to it precisely because of this sense that the carceral archipelago of America had turned him from a lumpen figure into this thinker. So there’s a sense in which The Black Liberator formed this moon, this gravitational pull that forced us into this orbit of what could be, what could constitute Black Marxism, is a direct result of this martyrdom and that passing. That’s why we ended up there. So what did we do when we get there? A lot of the time, there was very much this sense that given the fact that Althusser was the apex, the pinnacle of current thinking about Marx, that one ought to get to understand Althusserian Marxism. And in that sense,

The Black Liberator was not that different actually to a lot of magazines and periodicals that come of age in the 1970s at the time. The most famous Althusserian Marxists, Barry Hindess and Paul Hirst, ran a magazine called Theoretical Practice. For those of you interested in cinema, Screen certainly emerges as a result of the collapse of Theoretical Practice because Ben Brewster, who went on to edit Screen, came from Theoretical Practice. Many of the people around the Marxist Feminist journal MF came out of that. The Critique

of Anthropology, Economy and Society. A range of magazines in the 1970s and 1980s came from this firmament and championed by people who were either part of study groups like this or started off with really really elliptical periodicals and then migrated to the more mainstream left wing ones — Red Letters, the Communist party one, you know, they just range all in the 1970s. Where The Black Liberator was different was in its stressing of blackness. And there it was very different. That’s what made it unique. In fact, in a way it was unique in the world at the time because when you look at The Black Liberator there really wasn’t a magazine like it. The closest I would have thought at the time was something in San Francisco called RampartsRamparts was the closest. But Ramparts was not so hypothetical. Presence Africaine, sort of ... Close to in a sense that there was some theorising, but The Black Liberator was almost exclusively Marxist. I mean that was its orientation and it never wavered from that. It was an utterly unique journal. It intervened at the point that it felt that the question of building constituencies for Marxist theory of that kind was necessary. And I say failure only to the extent that it didn’t survive. One could say that it was a failure because the constituency clearly did not come about. It has this remarkable afterlife because, as I said, many of us in that study group then took the example of it, the collegiate, collective, convivial atmosphere of that study group to all walks of life. Michael Cadette became involved in student politics, of course me and Reese went on to be part of Black Audio afterwards, but you know, it had afterlives that were not entirely anticipated by Ricky, Collin or ...

“to bring it to another audience.”

In 1978, The Black Liberator published ‘The Caribbean Community in Britain,’ a text by Claudia Jones. Born in Trinidad, Jones was an intellectual-activist and writer. The essay originally appeared in the December 1964 issue of Freedomways, an Afro-American journal co-founded by Shirley Graham Du Bois and Esther Cooper Jackson, closely aligned with the civil rights movement in the United States; it was the last writing Jones completed before her death. By reprinting her essay, Cambridge hoped “to bring it to another audience.” How do we imagine the readership of The Black Liberator in 1978, as compared to the readership of Freedomways in 1964? What is lost (and found) in translation across time and space and context? What articles came before and after, and where might they lead us, if we care, dare to follow?


"Ntone [Edjabe, editor of Chimurenga] isn’t interested in writing that doesn’t take risks, that doesn’t propose something beautiful, new or dangerous. He has little interest in writing with boring structures, boring language. He is interested in publishing literature that is musical and visual and also explosive. Most of all he is interested in our capacity, through imagination and invention, to produce something radically new and original. 

Here, like Staffrider before it, and in a different way donga, Chimurenga take its inspiration from everyday life on the continent, from the inexhaustible capacity for innovation that defines even the most apparently superficial instances of life here. It draws on the way we somehow manage to live our lives with joy and creativity and beauty, sometimes amidst upheaval, suffering and violence, and sometimes perpendicular to it. It invites us to imagine our lives and our futures differently. 

What Chimurenga publishes then reflects what preoccupies us, here and elsewhere, or what preoccupies others we’re close to.The pro- ject’s byline in many ways lays out its agenda. “Who no know go know” is a phrase of Fela Kuti’s, exemplifying his wit. In it we hear Fela signaling that knowledge is something that one makes (or takes) rather than mere- ly receives; an active rather than passive process. As Ntone explains: 

We do not always try to overexplain, overclarify and always justify our existence and say “Well, the reason why we do this is because we are trying to liberate the mind”—No! Not that this would a bad thing, but there is no absolute necessity for us to know why we are doing what we are doing. We are doing it primarily because we are alive.That was a very libratory idea for us and it kind of canalized the ideas behind the design and the writings we take on. 

London 1971-78

Arkistro — by Christopher Wessels and Ahmed Al-Nawas, together with Angel Ho (Is Disco dead?), Naadira Pate (Why the use of Maps)l, Thulile Gamedze (Learning without Writing), Zen Marie (The Struggle united us) and Kino Kadre (Working Together).

Peter Katjavivi, May 2017

Dakar 1971-78

Kàddu! This is the title of this newspaper. Yes, you have our word: Kàddu! We’ve writers writing in Wolof, a cinema in Wolof; and now today we have a newspaper in Wolof.

Ibrahima Wane: Kaddu—The Echo of DissonanceKàddu sought to provide a space for awareness and sharing. All sorts of issues were raised through the opinions presented, as well as information on the country and the rest of the world. Kàddu also tackled politics, religion, history, art, sports, and health.
A conversation between Ibrahima Wane and Ben Diogoye Béye.  We were a group of young Medinans among whom were four of my brothers as well as Boubacar Boris Diop who, for me, was to become the greatest Senegalese writer. We had begun to campaign and our activism was oriented toward disengagement, for it was the time when Senghor wanted to impose his will on us, to make us believe that French was the language of the gods.

At the time, there was a movie theatre, we had a film club, and I was one of the film club’s organizers...

To talk about Kàddu means to talk about the influence that Pathé DiagneThe first time I read the Russian author Gogol’s The Overcoat was in Pathé Diagne’s Wolof translation Mantoob seytaane. That is to say that if I became interested in national languages, or more precisiely in Wolof, it is largely thanks to Pathé Diagne.

Cheikh Anta Diop, Pathé Diagne, and Ousmane Sembène It was at high school that I discovered the newspaper. I even lent a hand in selling it, for there was a sales point at the school.

Tshombe Ndadi, May 2017

Branches, Bifurcations and Simultaneities:

From London to Dakar

We could take The Black Liberator and its active community of young readers reading Louis Althusser to explore French Marxist’s writings, but branch off via Georgi Plekhanov, the Russian critic who comes up as a crucial reference in Althusser's texts, with a shortcut towards Dakar. As it happens, Plekhanov (1856-1918) was quite well known in Senegal in the 1970s, through Issa Samb's Laboratoire Agit' Art. Samb made use of Plekhanov's Art and Social Life, written in 1912 and republished in 1974, in support of his own efforts against the official object-bound understanding of art promoted by the regime of president Leopold Senghor. (Connections and analogies only become visible at a distance.) Once this connection is made between London and Dakar—which could also be drawn via the actor Omar Blondin Diop, Maoism, and black militant style—we are already also close to Ousmane Sembène, poet, novelist, and filmmaker, and yet another little magazine, Kaddu, which shares a precise life-span with The Black Liberator (both 1971-1978). Kaddu, co-founded by Sembène and the linguist Pathé Diagne, was the first journal published in Wolof; the name means letter (as it is translated and internationally known with Safi Faye's movie of the same title). But, as we may learn by consulting Diagne’s La Grammaire moderne du Wolof, a volume of 450 pages (and currently available online), “kaddu” also means speech and word, as well as thunder (!). Both, Sembène and Diagne, defend an understanding of a grammar under construction and open for renewal. La Grammaire de grand-mère, as Djibril Diop Mambéty would say, recorded by Jean-Pierre Bekolo. “The grandmother wants us to retell the story again differently every time.” With Kaddu, language itself is protest against the politics of Senghor, his orientation towards France and French. 


Each journal carries along an idea, a mission, a project; a world, timelines, places: contributors, graphic design, reading cultures; funding necessities; editors, politics, literature, humour and more. Following Claudia Jones could lead to the West Indian Gazette, the journal she edited in London, co-founded in 1958 with the assistance of Amy Ashwood Garvey… who in turn had created vibratory Pan-African spaces in 1930s London such as the Florence Mills Night Club and the Afro International Restaurant in 1930s London, frequented by such figures as Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, George Padmore, and CLR James. Ashwood Garvey, a tireless organizer and activist, had founded the newspaper Negro World with her then-husband, Marcus Garvey, in New York in 1918.


Tarah Shinavene, May 2017

Another Crossroad: From Dakar to Havanna via tricontinental

Tam Fiofori is one of Nigeria’s most accomplished photographers who has chronicled Nigeria’s history in albums of photographs over decades. He was also Sun Ra’s manager.

He is an artist, journalist and veteran, who has written about art, music and culture almost as prolifically as he has photographed them. He is also a filmmaker and media consultant with documentaries like ‘Odum’ and ‘Water Masquerades 1974’ that were screened at FESTAC ’77."

Mike Vazquez: So in hearing the story of The Black Liberator and I guess in the afterlife of George Jackson, your encounter with this stuff at the age of sixteen, I was thinking about my own encounter at that age with The Revolutionary Worker­­, which was a newspaper I would buy for a dollar from hawkers standing outside the Detroit Institute of Arts, where my dad and I would go most weekends to see foreign films. RW was the official publication of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, which was a Maoist political party that had its origins as a kind of splinter group from Students for a Democratic Society — from when SDS splintered in large part over the question of black liberation. The faction that aligned with the Black Panther Party turned into the RCP. Anyway what’s interesting is that RW was very much part of my intellectual formation. And not only in that I was getting this radical perspective on the latter half of the Reagan years, or learning about the Cultural Revolution in China — I was reading about Boogie Down Productions on the occasion of the death of Scott La Rock, or hearing for the first time about May 1968 in an article about its legacy for Maoists. But this is all stuff I’ve kind of forgotten about. And somewhat crazily in retrospect, all this was (bound up in why I ended up going to Harvard/how I decided where to go to college). The RCP had a chain of bookshops called Revolution Books, and the one I knew in Detroit was a bit sad — small and sparsely furnished and badly stocked, and I was always the only customer. So then one day when I was visiting colleges I was walking along a cobblestone street in Cambridge, Massachusetts and there around the corner from the Catholic church was Revolution Books — like the Platonic ideal of it, this huge store full of books and people — like, young-ish people. A whole wall in the back consisted of these super-cheap editions of texts by communist luminaries from Marx to Mao, which had been printed in bulk in bulk in China during the Cultural Revolution. Another wall had books like Soledad Brother and Soul on Ice. The two memorable things from that visit were Revolution Books and the radio station. I had been agonizing for a long time about where to go to college, and that was what sold me on Harvard. So anyway my question, I guess, informed by this scene and by the prominence of Maoism among the Panthers and of black liberation among the Maoists, is whether Mao or Maoism had an influence on that left ecology in the UK that you’ve been describing.

John Akomfrah: No, I mean I think it did but I think there were official Maoist organisations, the Revolutionary Communist League, etc. that just were as hostile to these questions of autonomy and race as anyone else, you know, because all of the left organisation in Britain would have seen the primacy of class as the key, you know. And in a way you have to do this kind of weird thing in order to arrive, to see how Maoism plays a role because at some point in 1976 … let’s pluck out of the era Stuart Hall. Stuart Hall starts to do these Open University lectures around mugging and that starts to then inform the writing on the police and the crisis at the point when they start to say that race is the prism, the mirror, the lens through which class and, well, crisis is being experienced. And I’ve always wondered about how one arrives at this part of — that is the insistence of autonomy from organisations like Race Today and TheBlack Liberator. And The Black Liberator was absolutely committed to this idea. You go to Race Today and you’d find a lot of white people there. Franco Rosso, the film director, was always around. This was not something you encountered with The Black Liberator and part of that was to do with how seriously The Black Liberator took it’s Marxist credentials. The sense that whatever has to happen with this journal must come from the group that is seen as a revolutionary force, the lumpen proletariat. So almost all its activities were around Black people and blackness. Most of the writings I would have thought, maybe I’m not sure, couldn’t swear 100% but a sizeable chunk of it would have come from Black radicals, intellectuals, autodidacts or different kinds, you know. So Maoism played that sort of role the informing credo of we rely on ourselves and our practice because we are the revolutionary vanguard as the subgroup of a class. That kind of impact, not the official Maoism. The official Maoist is as dead as dodo (laughs) international, you know.


Research, Biography

A Biography of Research 

Tam Fiofori in conversation with Jihan El-Tahri, Lagos, May 2018.  

Part 1: Departure 

on planet x, 2029 ...

"We were able to keep our cultural heritage and be proud of it to the extent that when we went abroad as young students in University, students they wear our Nigerian traditional clothes and the influence African's before me like Zik who had gone there and had taught at Lincoln. Nkrumah who had also gone there and taught. The musicians also, there was a great musician called Babatunde Olatunji who came from Nigeria. Now Olatunji `went to America, he studied and then he became a performing musician and he did fantastic albums like Drum Passion and he collaborated with Max Roach and the singer Abbey Lincoln and they did a fantastic record called "We Insist, Freedom Now". So, the Africans who went to America were very futuristic and confident and they have roots. And the Americans admired us for that."