The editorial preface
By Gwendolene Mugodi
By Gwendolene Mugodi
In the first story of this edition, Rešoketšwe Manenzhe’s characters meditate on — among other things — living and dying. The story is set during an epidemic that’s hard not to compare to the times we are living in. “I don’t want the shadow of these strange times to sweep me into the grave before I’ve lived my dreams,” says the narrator’s younger brother. That poignant line moves me to think of how many writers and readers (old and young) have been swept into the grave before they lived out their dreams. In a period that has seen so much death and loss, it’s a great privilege to be putting out this edition of creative works spanning multiple genres and disciplines. It is a gift to be living our dreams, as writers, readers, visual artists, and just more broadly as humans.
When we started out last year, we had one goal: to publish African stories from around the globe. Our definition of who is African was and remains broad; anyone whose heritage can be traced back to the continent. We asked writers to tell us stories — real and imagined, in poetry or in prose — that elevate Blackness. That’s a very tall order because what does it mean to elevate Black cultures and languages? It obviously means different things to different people. And that’s exactly the point. We wanted stories that surprised us. Stories that turned upside down and sideways what we imagine Blackness to be. We wanted stories that brought both old and new meanings to things we had heard, and others that we may have never encountered. We wanted stories that dared to push the boundaries not just in content but in style and form.
We quickly realized once all the entries came in that we had created a tenuous idea of superiority and objective hierarchy by choosing to run this as a competition. Not only because we all couldn’t always agree on which story was better than the other based on our own preferences as readers, but because sometimes objectively we could tell that two stories both had merits but the things that made each story special were so different that the stories were hard to pit against each other.
All that to say that while these writers and these stories we have presented to you are amazing, we also recognize how the writers we have chosen not to publish are worthy of being heard. They too deserve a day in the sun where their words will be celebrated by readers. Which is why we are happy to see so many outlets for African writers growing. Magazines such as Lolwe, Doek!, Isele, BakwaMag, among many others, are doing similar work. So we hope that if this is the first African literary mag you’re reading you pick those up next. Because as storytellers one of the things we hope for most is not to go to the grave before our stories have been heard.