I expected tales of longing, poems that lingered on difficult pasts, art that spoke of the macro through the micro and essays that challenged and upended colonial and imperialist narratives. What we got went far beyond that. At a time when the world was collectively struggling to imagine a future, we looked to the past in ways that invited rage and tenderness, despair and rebirth, laughter and a sense of urgency.
This issue is filled with words, pictures and sounds that were produced under difficult circumstances. Our singularly tragic invisible war was the salt added to the many wounds of an already ailing planet. It has altered our lives, raided our pockets and threatened our sanity. Therefore, my deep and sincere thanks goes out to everyone who responded to our call-out and those who trusted us with their time and ideas. I am indebted to my stellar editorial team: Richard Ali (Poetry), Ndinda Kioko (Fiction), Marziya Mohammedali (Visual Art) and Chao Maina (Non-Fiction)—their skills and steadfastness have made this anthology possible.
Our earliest responders to the theme worked in archiving. Nostalgia x Libraries, was an essay series that recognized these custodians of arts and culture. We heard from Syokau Mutonga from Nairobi’s McMillan Memorial Library, Asif Khan, the Director of the Scottish Poetry Library and Brooklyn Art Library’s Ellie Botoman. Each one wrote a reflection on an artifact in the library’s possession. It was part celebration, part critical fabulation.
Indeed, history isn’t so much fact as it is the narrative of victors. There are many gaps and inaccuracies. In this issue, Chiagozie Nwonwu pens a complicated tale about soldiers in the Biafran war. Derek Lubangakene leaps into the future with a character revived in 2045 Kampala who dryly observes that: The past is, after all, an imagination, not solid like furniture. My conversation with documentary and feature filmmakers, Jihan El-Tahri and Judy Kibinge centred their work countering historical revisionism.
All of these moments serve as responses to a salient question posed in Gabriel Moshenka’s essay: How do you tell a story four centuries long, that touches upon nearly every modern nation on earth? This is a story that shaped seafaring, industrial capitalism, art, food, drugs, religion, music, war, sex, gardening and the English language.
The intricacies of lust, love and loss can also be found here. Many times our protagonists are fated to experience all three. Parental figures equally loom large within this issue. From failed founding fathers and their corrupt descendants to gentle, wise Papas gone too soon. As with life, tragedy commingles with joy and comes to us in French, Igbo, English, Portuguese, Sheng, Yoruba, Afrikaans and, thanks to Caleb Olorunmaiye, Ena.
This is how we chose to remember this time; to survive this time.
May the universe guide us to the paradise in Alirio Karina’s poem:
to find care without nausea, to remember living
without mislaying the earth, to lose—not jettison—
romance, to linger out of the way, to lust and
keep friendships—to kindle. a tired without
distance, a kin without weary, space for being
without needing to.
Wanjeri Gakuru | Issue Editor
Managing Editor, Jalada Africa
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