Editor’s Note – Jalada: 07 After+ Life

May 31st, 2019

When the After+Life issue was first proposed by Jalada writer Abdul Adan in January 2018, he pitched it as an opportunity to explore this hidden plane of existence in all its thrilling possibilities:

“The afterlife has been a mysterious curiosity for as long as humans can remember. Myths, stories, and even entire religions have been born out of our need to understand it,” he said.

An interrogation required probing questions regarding the transmutation of disintegrated flora and fauna and inanimate objects. It asked to wonder at the whereabouts of consciousness and even language after a passing.

We sought both philosophical and fantastical responses. Stylizing the theme’s typography as After and Life at Jalada writer Richard Ali’s suggestion expanded the imaginarium even more. Jalada’s Art Editor, Marziya Mohammedali, interpreted it variously through call-out artwork, cover art and art for individual pieces.

Authors from across the globe answered in kind. In this issue we feature 23 pieces from 19 writers based in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa and the USA, among others. We thank them for sharing their work as they drew on personal experiences, reflections and near-misses, culture—such as the Dagaaba of Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso—and good ol’ inventiveness.

Each poem, each story peels back the veil in startling and exciting new ways. Death and the dead are reclaimed and unriddled as fragments of memory, errant spirits, ghosts, eccentric marketplaces, virtual reality recreations. Unshackled. Damned. Remorseful. Bitter. Lost. The characters inhabit churches and forests, haunt the bones of old mansions and attend their own funerals; some demand to cross over while some trick others to do so or urge them to stay away.

During the Friday, May 31st launch in Nairobi, short films, “Coda” and “To catch a dream” were screened and added to the possible deconstructions of the fear, loss and longing that accompany death.  Guests also received free tickets to a guided tour of the Kenya National Archives. It hosts The Murumbi Gallery collection of rare artifacts related to the burial practices and myths of different African communities such as Giriama commemoration Posts (Kenya), Senoufo Helmet Mask (Ivory Coast), Dogon (Mali) and Osayin iron staffs (Nigeria), among others.   

As we worked to prepare this anthology for publication, one of Kenya’s most gifted writers, Binyavanga Wainaina, passed away. He was an author whose work excavated memory in stunning ways, a skilful unriddler of life’s many questions—including but far beyond which shoes to pair with a pink tutu and how to (really) write about Africa. It is easy to imagine him as an errant spirit.

This friend of Jalada moved on to the afterlife and so we dedicate this issue to him as a thank you for daring us to freely imagine. We seek to see and honour Binyavanga in the fullness of both his intense magic and his imperfections; to be sensitive to the pain of others while returning a small ounce of kindness for the immeasurable good he did.  

We hope the characters walking these digital pages and the readers who will meet them at different points in that shrouded stream of immortality learn of the possible ways to become free, to feel cherished, to experience joy, to take on a sweetness and to find their way home.

“May the saints of all the stars and constellations bring you hope as they guide you out of the dark and into the light on this voyage and the next and all the journeys still to come. For now and evermore.”

Welcome to the After+Life.

Wanjeri Gakuru
Editor, Jalada07: After+Life
Managing Editor, Jalada Africa