Pan-Africanism: Introduction


Welcome to the 32nd issue of The Funambulist. For once, we curated and coordinated its editorial line amongst the three of us (Caroline Honorien, Margarida Waco, and Léopold Lambert) in order to combine our perspectives on the topic. After our previous issues “Settler Colonialism in Turtle Island” and “Learning With Palestine,” this particular issue dedicated to Pan-Africanism is the third one specific to a place in the world. Yet, we mean for this issue to interpret the geography of Pan-Africanism as a profoundly swaying one. 

The African Continent is at the heart of this geography of course, and with it, the thousands of nations and non-settler diasporic groups that it hosts from Tunis to Cape Town, from Mogadishu to Dakar. But perhaps Pan-Africanism also extends to “map onto Blackness,” as Denise Ferreira da Silva eloquently puts in our interview with her. Mapping onto Blackness, for us, incorporates the millions of Black people from the African diaspora in the Americas, the Carribeans, and Europe, whether they’ve been forcefully displaced in the Middle Passage or moved later throughout the world by way of opportunity or exile. But Blackness and Black movement does not stop there. While Blackness is usually discussed in the context of post-slavery societies, there exists other forms of blackness in broader colonial settings For instance, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations in Australia embody “Blakness” (coined by KuKu and Erub/Mer artist Destiny Deacon) specific to their experiences of European colonialism stealing the lands on which they live, while the very name of Melanesians (Papuans, Kanak, Fijians, and Vanuatuans) — a name given by the European colonialists, but reclaimed by the Pacific Islanders it designates — bears in its very etymology the notion of blackness. 

When deciding on the theme, our editorial argument departs from an understanding of Pan-Africanism as perhaps being the most ambitious political and cultural project in the world: a project transcending nation-states and unifying millions of people. It is a profoundly anti-colonial, anti-imperial and unifying political horizon that all people engaged in a liberation struggle can take inspiration from. Discussing the legacy and actualizations of Pan-Africanism, however, requires a high level of nuance as a comprehensive themed feature. Pan-Africanism is weaved by ebbs and flows, full of false starts and stops. At times, its black nationalist aspects have swerved into reductive narratives and dipped into essentialist discourses. Confronting these specters, as well as facing remergent Pan-Africanist currents and persistent myths has called for a crucial unravelling in our editorial endeavor. In this process, we have had to disambiguate words and come to terms with the contradictions of some Pan-Africanist idols. 

As an editorial team of a magazine that consistently reaffirms its anti-colonial stance, confronting the legacies of these figures raises new questions. It has forced us to reconcile Pan-Africanism as the locus of divergent geographies, struggles, interests and strategies, with its internationalist claims. Who is African? From Brazil to Liberia, who is Indigenous and what does being Indigenous mean? How to turn fantasies of home and internationalist dreams into collective political action? These questions are thoroughly discussed by our contributors. As this particular issue attempts to articulate questions about the past, present and futurities of the Pan-African project through the perspectives of Africans and its diasporas, it is not solely concerned with the crucial discourses manifesting Pan-Africanist imaginaries as those put forward by Nkrumah, Senghor, Césaire, Fanon, Du Bois, et al. This issue attempts to provide a toolbox for solidarity and strategizing for global forms of solidarity, as expressed from the Haitian Revolution, the FRELIMO Liberation struggle in Mozambique, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, to the Black Lives Matter uprising to mention only a few illustrious examples. 

As showcased by Algiers’ Panaf 1969 and Lagos’ Festac 77, turning to cultural festivals has proved to be most productive in our quest to locate past successes, failed attempts and its possible actualizations of movements. Caught between two influxes over the 20th century, African art was first concerned with finding an “African personality,” a term coined by Edward Blyden and later popularized by Kwame Nkrumah, in the context of cultural nationalism. Likewise, artists from the diaspora sought self-affirmative Afrocentric aesthetics. Ultimately, these movements challenged and complicated colonial notions of Africanness, locality or nationalism. Pan-africanist cultural events and festivals allowed for the celebration of Black cultures, the reaffirmation of Afro-descendants unity in the global struggle against colonialism and anti-Blackness. 

Our hope is that the dialogue created by the nine contributions to this issue’s main dossier will be akin to Chimurenga’s stunning maps (see the next double page for an example) tracing relationships between historical events, geographies, political figures, artists, books, and music. They simultaneously construct a non-imperial cartography of collective Pan-African imaginaries and provide an analytical framework to make sense of the interconnections between each of these temporal, spatial, biographical, artistic, literary, and musical components. 

It is no accident that we conclude with an homage to Chimurenga, as we also pay tribute to those who have dedicated their entire life’s work to documenting the Pan-African project. May this issue be a small token of our solidarity with them. We wish you an excellent read. ■ 

The Funambulist 32 Pan Africanism Sample 04
Double page in The Funambulist 32: “Negritude vs. Afroradicalism,” in Chimurenga Chronic October 2018. / Courtesy of Chimurenga.