Revolutionary Papers

Revolutionary Papers is a transnational research collaboration exploring 20th century periodicals of Leftanti-imperial and anti-colonial critical production. Read More

Black Orpheus, Nexus/Busara, Chimurenga Chronic, etc.

1900 – 1999

Small Magazines in Africa: Networks of Curation and Scalability

Christopher Ouma and Madhu Krishnan

The small magazine has held a significant but understudied effect on not only the project of imagining Africa in the long twentieth century, but also of articulating projects of solidarity, intimacy and political action. As a key node within larger ecologies of print culture, the small magazine is notable for the ways in which its flexible form and sometimes eccentric modes of circulation trouble what have come to be seen as ‘orthodox’ or received wisdom as to the nature of self-fashioning and modernity on the African continent. While the ‘smallness’ of its form underlines its context as a site-specific platform of cultural production, it’s networks of circulation and the audiences and publics it convenes point to a wider and much more ambitious intention which cannot be reduced to simplistic or one-dimensional systemic models of understanding. As ‘form’ and therefore a ‘genre’ in the long twentieth century of African cultural production, the small magazine has convened various platforms for the articulation and intersection of various projects, often in intersectional logic; anti-colonialism, pan-Africanism, Anti-apartheid imagination and broader project(s) of decolonization during the second half of the twentieth century. This project seeks to examine how small magazines are able, through the networks they create scale up and scale down their visibility through various strategies of curation and self-fashioning which evolve and transform over time and space. It is the specific nexus of scalability, in tandem with the curatorial potentiality of the small magazine through various models of formal juxtaposition and intellectual patterning, we argue, which has lent it its importance as an archive of the present with respect to African models of intellectual production. Such strategies account for the longevity, political and cultural potency of the form which has had a significant footprint in the long twentieth century of political and cultural organization and the imagination of identity in the continent. The project draws from example in magazines such Transition, Black Orpheus, Nexus/Busara, Chimurenga Chronic, Kwani? amongst many others, exploring how media, platform, visibility, publicness, form and genre come together in the small magazine to produce new understandings of African models of modernity, coalition and solidarity.

Chris Ouma

Christopher E. W. Ouma is an associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Departments of English Literary Studies and African Studies at the University of Cape Town. His research and teaching interests include the broader field of contemporary African and African Diasporic literary and cultural production. He is particularly interested in African popular culture and […]