Boundary & Connectedness


How to go into the practice of »Membranity« and »Permeability?« The character of a membrane is paradoxical – a membrane creates an expanded field of sometimes conflicted relations and movements oscillating between inside and outside. The membrane is employed as both a boundary-object and as a site of connectedness. Its function allows things to pass and it facilitates distribution, at the same time it protects closed systems, the community, so to speak. Looking at this two folded character of the membrane, the discussion in this issue is about flows, exchange, permeability, and translations, and about restraint, rejections, and protected areas: The authors, artists, and thinkers of the issue »Membrane – Permeable Thinking in African/-diasporic Literatures and Art« reflect on questions of movement, borders, race, colonialism, geographical and temporal categories, and existing vocabularies.

Initially looking into the future of the African continent, Felwine Sarr talks about his essay »Afrotopia.« »Now is the time to dream the utopia in Africa itself, to design Africa ourselves, to think, and to act for ourselves,« he says. He is doing so not by neglecting the history of the continent, and its entanglements with GLOBAL DYNAMICS, but by presenting forms of knowledge and reason characteristic to African thinking.

Considering the unique, intersectional temporal experiences of Black women, femmes, and girls and the ways in which they are being actively erased from the objective, linear future, the Philadelphia-based collective Black Quantuum Futurist goes one step further, and introduces a nonlinear timescape/time displacement to uncover ancestral SPACE-TIME CONFIGURATIONS for survival in present, future, and past moments. Their lecture performance entitled »Temporal Disruptors« is embedded as audio file; in it, liberation technologies such as time travel serve at a core for a new destiny.

»The character of a membrane is a paradoxical one–a membrane creates an expanded field of (conflicted) relations and movements oscillating between inside and outside.«

In her piece »Lebensentwürfe,« The Berlin-based Cameroonian writer Clementine Ewokolo Burnley weaves together diary entries, songs, and letters about West African women and their descendants. The work questions their history, and thus tells it anew, spanning a timeline between the years 1600 and 2050. The travelogue »Entanglements in Transnational Memory Politics,« by Eric Otieno who passed through Bagamoyo, Tanzania, where he found traces of German colonialism, also complicates the relation of MEMORY, TIME, AND PLACES by pointing toward the gaps of collective memory, and a distorted Erinnerungskultur. »To be black is to remember forgotten, unwritten, erased memories.« he says.

Exchanging images and ideas about EVERYDAY LIFE in Berlin and Dschang, about childhood, the arts, and politics, the graphic artists Paula Bullig and Japhet Miagotar entered into dialogue with each other and reflected on their sociocultural realities and North-South relationships. So did Nigerian writer Sada Malumfashi, who in his short story »Learning Berlin« is hunting for a key in nocturnal Berlin with his friends, Nkiacha, Johann, and Pa Tanka. In Yvonne Owuor’s short story »Gap in the Map,« a woman who gets lost in a European town in the middle of the night is confronted with the strange feeling of solitude, two foreign languages, and three strangers who are sitting in a shelter. In both stories, like in the excerpt of »A Stranger’s Pose« by Emmanuel Iduma, the protagonists were sharing conversations, talking about their contemporaries, interacting and communicating trough TRANSLATIONS, and in that moment shaping their surrounding with a black perspective.

Adding a critical perspective, Enos Nyamor provokes the concept of Afropolitanism (denoting a brand of Africans of the world) that identifies the weakness of Afrocentrism as a concept. »Among some of the recent postcolonial ideas, the concept of Afropolitanism has grown increasingly problematic,« he says. In her provocative essay »Thank God for Slavery!,« Alice Sarmiento shares notes on a global labor force using the example of Filipino guest workers in Germany, and migrant workers in white-collar jobs all over the world.

»The essence of life itself – fertility ­– is based on the permeability and the protective function of a membrane.«

In poetry, literature, and music, the ocean is often a metaphor. Brazilian author Vinicius Jatobá does not shy away from words of rage. In his poem »this rage must be named,« he recounts the impetuous elemental forces from the beginning of the creation of the continents to their division by the oceans. Here, the Atlantic ocean is an integral part of the history of colonialism. Through his music, DJ and producer Lamin Fofana explores questions of MOVEMENT, MIGRATION, ALIENATION and belonging. His mix »PRECARITY« is part of an ongoing project that resists closure or ending. It is part of a series engaging with topics ranging from identity and race to meditations on black life in contemporary Europe and reflections on the unreality of white supremacy. The project »All Directions at Once« by Luiza O. Prado also explores the idea of power in the world, and tiptoeing the line between exuberance, oppression, and terror. The Brazilian artist dedicated the past few years to researching the violences that coloniality and capitalism have enacted in the Global South – in which technologies of birth control play a crucial role.

Circling back to the initial question: How to go into the practice of »Membranity« and »Permeability?,« one can say that the essence of life itself – fertility – is based on the permeability and the protective function of a membrane. Engaging with this IMMEDIACY AND INTIMACY of bodily encounters, we are happy to close the issue with the dispatching drawings by David Matthews – a drawn document of what »Membranity« can look like in all its nuances.

Denise Helene Sumi

We wish to thank all contributors to this issue