The lack of posts recently is mostly due to me being in the home stretch of dissertating. In that spirit, I thought I’d share a couple of pics of my office/storage unit these days (above). It’s a nice space to hunker down in and get some work done (a.k.a. work on “the sprawl”). I’ve even got a nifty little TV/VCR combo in there—although only one tape to play on it. … To paraphrase the main “outside reader” on my diss, Prof. Rustin Cohle, “My [dissertation]’s been a circle of violence and degradation, as long as I can remember. I’m ready to tie it off.”
For Wright, black people did not have to go out and find surrealism, for their lives were already surreal. He suggested that it was exactly the forced exclusion of black people that produced a different way of looking at the world and of feeling it—an idea made evident in his 1941 text Twelve Million Black Voices. Wright used Farm Security Administration photographs to drive his narrative. The text captured the surrealist character of black life and turned to poetry as a means to elucidate alienation and its impact on the psyche. ‘The noise of our living,’ he writes, ‘boxed in stone and steel, is so loud that even a pistol shot is smothered.’ In the foreword, Wright announced that he was not interested in celebrating the black middle class, the success stories who were ‘like single fishes that leap and flash for a split second above the surface of the sea.’ He really wanted to write a ‘history’ that attempted, as Baudelaire put it, to ‘plunge to the bottom of the abyss, Hell or Heaven … to the bottom of the Unknown in order to find the new!’ …
… Wright conveyed to his readers the long nightmare that is black life in America and held out the possibility of a new dream, one rooted in African-American folk values which he attributes to the absurd and impoverished life black people had to endure. Unlike the ‘lords of the land,’ slavery’s descendants never had the option of creating a culture based on property ownership, accumulation, and exploitation. Instead, black families were held together ‘by love, sympathy, pity, and the goading knowledge that we must work together to make a crop.’ ‘That is why we black folk laugh and sing when we are alone together,’ Wright mused. ‘Our scale of values differs from that of the world from which we have been excluded; our shame is not its shame, and our love is not its love.’ …
Wright’s engagement with surrealism seemed to parallel that of many other black intellectuals. They have found in surrealism confirmation of what they already know—for them it is more an act of recognition than a revolutionary discovery. As we have already seen, Aimé Césaire insisted that surrealism brought him back to African culture. … The contemporary Senegalese artist Cheikh Tidiane Sylla is even more explicit about how surrealism reveals what is already familiar in African culture. ‘In the ecologically balanced tribal cultures of Africa,’ he wrote in Arsenal/Surrealist Subversion (1989), ‘the surrealist spirit is deeply embedded in social tradition. The “mysticism” prevalent in all Black African philosophy presupposes a highly charged psychic world in which every individual agrees to forget himself or herself in order to concentrate on the least known instances of the mind’s movement—a throughly emancipatory experience.’ He further asserted that in Africa the practice of poetry was always a way of life, whereas in the West surrealism was the product of a long philosophical and political struggle ‘to recover what the traditional African has never lost.’
Kwaku Ananse filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu has initiated the project “Damn the Man, Save the Rex” to preserve one of Ghana’s most important cultural heritages; the Rex Cinema.
The Rex Cinema in Accra is Ghana’s oldest cinema and was built by Kwame Nkrumah, but it is at risk of being sold-off to foreign developers by the Ghanaian government. The kickstarter aims to raise $8000 to restore the cinema — to renovate and transform into an alternative creative space for art, music, and film.
With the money raised through Kickstarter, Owusu will repair The Rex, install video and film projectors as well as a light and sound system.. The Rex’s first event will be a screening of Owusu’s award-winning film, Kwaku Ananse along with a concert by Koo Nimo, Kyekyeku, Nana Asaase, and This House is Not For Sale.
“Shortly after winning the Africa Movie Academy Award, I had this idea to open up one of Ghana’s oldest cinema houses and premiere my film, Kwaku Ananse there. On my visits, I noticed the venue was in complete disrepair. It was nearly impossible to hold events there. No public toilets. No projector. No sound equipment. No cinema. One of the people I met on my visit was the late actor/theater director Evans Nii Oma Hunter, (on the far right of this photo). He expressed much grief about Ghana’s dying cinema culture and how back in the day he never waited around for the government to offer help before embarking on art projects most important to him. He passed away a few weeks after taking this photo with me. RIP Evans Nii Oma Hunter”
Africans and Africans of the diaspora…support!
Donate to the Kickstarter
“The Kissing Machine" by artist Patrick Camut
This interactive sculpture from the series “Suggestive Mechanical Expression" engages two participants in a mechanically precise kiss when the motor located above the machine is activated by the toggle switch found on the shoulder harness.
The “Kissing Machine” was inspired by a the moment when artist Patrick Camut fumbled a first kiss with current girlfriend Alison Reken. The mistake led to a head bump that was eventually followed by a kiss. The “Kissing Machine” insures this mistake will never happen again with the help of precision mechanics and solid engineering.
Suburbia was becoming an emblem of the normal, workaday world, though with different connotations for different writers. For Graham Greene it was noisy and dishonest: witness the appalling road-house, dominated by a loud and bogus major, in The Confidential Agent. It was an object of interest to those two intrepid explorers of contemporary Britain, Priestley and Orwell. For [J. B.] Priestley, with his comfortable middle-brow view of the world, suburbia was the place in which the Everyman of the twentieth century exhibited his basic humanity. For [George] Orwell, with his acutely sensitive nose for the nuances of class difference, it was the breeding ground of something that had never before existed in Britain: people of indeterminate social class[.]
Radio was not merely a taken-for-granted element in this new way of life; it embodied it. This was the riddle of its commodity form. The cheap radio receiver was, as Williams puts it, ‘a significant index of a general condition and response’ embodied in the mobile privatization of suburban living. We have had glimpses, in the preceding accounts, of other ways of life: of the culture of poverty, for instance, described for an audience that lived elsewhere, in talks series on the slums and unemployment. Urbane, metropolitan culture was routinely tapped through the late night music of the smart dance bands in Mayfair hotels, and caught occasionally in the sophisticated revues of the Maschwitz era of light entertainment. But neither of these were the heartland of the vast radio audience of the thirties. Radio, as part of the emerging modern way of life — mobile, family-centered, suburban, classless — was deeply implicated in its normalization, but it had first to discover how it was part of that new way of living. That, above all, meant understanding and accommodating to the conditions of listening.
Stuart Hall on the 2013 reprinting of Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law & Order, among many other topics—the political edge of critical thinking; questions of race (in higher education, in cultural studies, in the British social formation); the changing, long, and sometimes boring cultural studies project; conjunctural analysis; Gramscian ideas; the move from the welfare state to neoliberalism; the surprise of Thatcherism; and being right.
Worth the twenty minutes.
… the most successful social movement in Africa in recent decades has been the women’s movement, particularly in policy and legislation. Malawi and Liberia have female heads of state, and earlier this month Senegal elected its first female prime minister, Aminata Touré. Also, the African Union chair is female for the first time in its history. Africa’s strong legacy of female leaders is a hugely positive statement about the continent’s direction.
So why does the western feminist movement hardly look at African feminism for clues? Why does it only pay such little attention to the realisation of a once utopian fantasy of female majority leadership in Rwanda – where, since 2008, women have held over half the parliamentary seats? Feminists everywhere have spent decades campaigning for equality in political leadership, yet its achievement in Rwanda has been met with a loud silence.
In South Africa, reconciliation abides within speech that not only contains but constitutes the potential for becoming otherwise in a different way. …
… Found in the midst of violence that appears to breach the very conditions of creative expression, the matter of reconciliation’s role in South Africa’s transition is the rhetorical question of its unfolding and enfolding capacity to invent the power of speech from within moments of its apparent foreclosure.
Between 1985 and 1995, reconciliation was the topic of significant and widespread talk in South Africa. Both a call to speak and the calling of speech, it was held out as a practice of exchanging words in the name of fostering interaction and composing relationships that do not rest on the necessity of violence. To these ends, reconciliation was defined as a moment in which the break with words, the language of legal and historical precedent that deterred speech, indemnified the state’s violence, and unhinged law from its announced commitment to justice. Dedicated to creating the conditions for talking about talk, and cultivating the character (ethos) needed for enemies to listen and argue in good faith, calls for reconciliation set language into the motion of speech, a process that involved explicit argumentation about the ways reconciliation worked rhetorically and constituted a basis for creative expression. An occasion and mode of rhetorical invention, reconciliation thus held a constitutive power that called back to the question of its own standing to make anew, the problem of how its beginning (with) words marked a moment of definition that had to be scrutinised if not opposed. Neither a revolution with permanence nor a permanent revolution, reconciliation engendered a struggle for the ‘wrong state of affairs’, a creativity with words that remained attuned to the costs of its own creation.