first published here: http://www.thepatriot.co.zw/analysis/soul-searching-challenge-for-blacks/
March 6, 2017
July 15, 2016
December 10, 2015
“I hate Aryan Kaganof! I hate that stupid book we did together. I’m mad!!!”
Andile Mngxitama, face book comment.
From a place of blackness? Which place, other than the unending bottomless abyss ? What place other than the arid zone of depressing non-placeness? What is place-like about the ‘place of blackness’ – doesn’t this very phrase, in its standard poise rob itself of placement, much like the infinite darkness before creation – absolute nothingness? Something is agonizing about blackness, it’s definition in the world, as that which is sucked to invisibility by the displacing parasitic presence of whiteness. In an anti-black world, the lived experience of black people emanates the problem of not so much ‘difference’ but cancelation – it isn’t of not the same being, but a reality that narrates not at all being. Which says that, instead of groping for a grammar of ‘possibility and contingency’ as analytical tools of understanding this implicit place of blackness, one has to gather courage to accept that the paradigm shifts and insists on the ‘impossible and structural’.
First to be a ‘nigger’ is to lack the possibility of gathering specks of existential aptitude, as our entire ‘place’ of being is of displacement – being merely feasible in the cartographic layout as “a being of the captor”. A people’s existence marked by the symbolic meaning extracted from the allegories of captivity, colonization, apartheid and neo-colony. What is potentially named a black place is always-already foreclosed and tainted by the signifying presuppositions of inherent attributions to niggerness’ – scandal to ontology . It is a bottomless abyss where everything is noise, yawning gap and primordial chaos . One then is tempted to argue further and say that this ‘place’, if polluted by connotations of blackness, is itself an unfathomable terrain without the gravity of place – ‘a fated place where fated Black bodies are domiciled’ . Consider from this revealing response by a character called Trevor in Incognegro: “No” said Trevor, “we’re terrorists. It’s not a term I’m ashamed of, for the simple reason that I don’t give a damn what the world thinks. I don’t even care what my parents think or don’t think – they are white. That’s what we mean when we say ‘the world’” .
If black people imply this scandalous position, their place implies ipso facto a ‘zone of nonbeing’ – white people are paradigmatically not even at a distance, but totally out of black horizons as it were – worldly beings. Trevor’s admittance to this nonetheless isn’t a way that marks or absolves him from the inimical anti-blackness inherent in his skin. Frank Wilderson III admits ‘no slave is in the world’. To think of the the logic of the post 1994 situation, what Frank Wilderson III calls the ‘taciturn historical moment’ , anti blackness conceals itself through a myriad of raceless speculations, which permit a sanitary narrative of the moment.
What we often hear both from narcissistic charlatans and so-called ‘kaffir lover’ whities, about the race question either suspends white culpability, normalizes suffering by depoliticizing the current life or propose sameness – all for a satanic retention of ‘white corporeal integrity’. The deafening cry of white victimhood, without even accounting for historical dispossessions, is evil: whites are happy in their so-called ‘oppression’, to misuse Marx’s rebuttal on bourgeois alienation. The problems still implicated on the black body will be scandals that this raceless “contemporary critical discourse neither acknowledge nor discourse away” . One has to quote Jared Sexton and Huey Copeland here at length:
“For it is that very function which contemporary racial theory more often than not seeks to leap over, in the process revealing its own ineffectuality, a kind of willful blindness that cannot be overstated. In its single minded capacity to concentrate on everything except which matters most in the restricting of white supremacy, such theory is undoubtedly egregious than intellectual faux pas or public disservice. It is a modality of complicity, or better, fraud.”
To think therefore of this book (From a place of blackness), one is mired by a series of immobilizing questions, those that squat in its belly – here Andile Mngxitama and Aryan Kaganof bare the brutality of the race question; instead of valorizing dialogue, the new constituent element of the hypocritical cuteness of the rainbow kak, they send us walking through the agonizing pitch of burning coal. Mngxitama assumes his role as Bigger Thomas in Richard Wright’s Native Son: ‘Every desire, every dream, no matter how intimate or personal, is a plot or a conspiracy. Every hope is a plan for insurrection. Every glance of the eye is a threat. His very existence is a crime against the state!’ Whilst Kaganof is the Trevor Gardener in Frank Wilderson’s Incognegro: ‘to the world I am terrorist – an albino terrorist’. They both agree that there is no possible comradeship between whites and blacks: their affair is “irreconcilable, non-communicative”, as Wilderson III would put it. The entry point that, when ‘whites appeared, blacks disappeared’ foregrounds and compels the discussion to accept the gulf. It begs us concede to the benumbing reality of blacks and whites’ situation as always already that of utter depletion, sutured by their respective irreconcilability.
Dialogue is primarily a cul-de-sac, of trying to either reach consensus by watering down the possibility of a rupture or negotiation over nebulous ideas that seek to dissuade the fact of South African reality. Here, in this pseudo dialogue as it were, Mngxitama and Kaganof accept that what could be given credence as a place of departure, is in fact the very antic of preserving dispersion, securing and obscuring the temerity of white violence to still cloud and detect chant of black cries. Isn’t this the anguishing tale of the new social movements today, whose respective enunciatory speech as Heinrich Bohmke opines, is that of white supremacy as an ‘organizing discourse’ ? The violence of whiteness nonetheless cannot be simply observed in the simplistic often obvious dexterities of post 1994 missionaries/leftists, who speak the language of human rights, Lewis R Gordon’s exoticists who ‘desire the forbidden fruit’ . We must go beyond, I think, to those who pose real questions, like when Costas Duozinas asks provocatively who is the “human” of Human Rights or even the classical performances of John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me. These are a step ahead from the monotonous decrepitude of colorblind activists. Didn’t someone reply to Griffin’s masochistic Leon Schuster’s miss-en-scene, painting himself black to show how racist whites are: at least you can wipe off your paint!? Can’t this very question be posed to what is happening here – the pseudo dialogue also, be flipped on its head; the truth being that Aryan Kaganof IS actually speaking alone? Isn’t it to some relative level the violence of white supremacy feasible even when white folks bewail the line of antagonism, cursing his very zone of existence, like Trevor Gardener? Doesn’t this sacrifice, in its ‘well meaningfulness’ also accrue and legitimate the very core of white signifying (virtue, all good) and that by its ‘radicality’ stands to absorb and validate that what the blacks are saying is ‘true’? Aren’t you reminded of the beauty of the white man who took white narcissism scoops, as ‘the repenting perpetrator’ after attempting to kill Rev Frank Chikane?
If we accept these points, we must move to a point that says, actually – there is indeed no dialogue here – in fact this is not even Andile Mngxitama’s book. The saddening thing about these kinds of situation is that the black voice, as said above, is sucked to absence by the parasitic presence of whiteness. Achille Mbembe admits to a similar futility about black combative discourses attempting to refute the West’s negative attitude about Africa:
“The harshness of such a diagnosis may surprise. But it must not be forgotten that, almost universally, the simplistic and narrow prejudice persists that African social formations belong to a specific category, that of simple societies or of traditional societies. That such a prejudice has been emptied of all substance by recent criticism seems to make absolutely no difference; the corpse obstinately persists in getting again every time it is buried and, year in year out, everyday language and much ostensibly scholarly writing remain largely in thrall to its presuppositions”
So by way of concluding, let me end off with a small anecdote. I was once debating with a friend (black) at Tagores about race and Mbembe, until I got angry and left him: fucking stupid prick, I murmured. He later came outside to meet with me, where I was standing chatting to another friend (white). He asked her how come she was talking with such a racist, but with a hint of a smile implying he’s just joking. She replied, as it were confirming the argument we’d been having inside: are you one of those colorblind darkies? He couldn’t breathe, he was startled by the vulgarity of his futile premise. This could be said about the same thing about this book. Andile Mngxitama’s position as known (racists, extremist, fundamentalist etc) sabotages the very fabric of the ‘new’ dispensation, his anti-people hogwash – but I am tempted to say, only with Kaganof’s validation is Andile’s politics going to resound, given credibility and sense. It is only when white people concede that they are fucking up black people’s lives that most people will assume their ‘place’. So in relative fact, the very voice of anti-blackness, through its myriad reproductions, still gives itself credibility even in trying to make us fight back. As the black consciousness refusal adage says: they kick us and then tell us how to respond to the kick!
Athi Mongezeleli Joja
March 24, 2015
March 20, 2015
February 10, 2015
first published here: http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2015/02/10/homework-for-a-pres-so-far-sona-so-bad-…
February 6, 2015
read the full article here: http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2015-02-06-full-trotsky-eff-deals-with-andile-mngxitama/#.VNRezcbU6t-
December 31, 2014
order your copy here: http://bookloversmarket.com/product/from-a-place-of-blackness/
December 29, 2014
October 15, 2014
October 8, 2014
September 30, 2014
September 25, 2014
September 22, 2014
September 21, 2014
click here to order: http://bookloversmarket.com/product/from-a-place-of-blackness/
this review first published here: http://chimurengachronic.co.za/the-case-of-sipho-mchunu/
July 17, 2014
July 11, 2014
Your book with Andile has been haunting me since I read it earlier in the year. I spent so much of our nearly eight years trying to find a dialogue with black South Africans, and failing. It seems the only dialogue that functions there is the one that talks money, between the old corrupt whites and the new corrupt blacks. Towards the end, I felt it was killing off my humanity and I couldn’t engage any more; I even began to feel racist at times in an unthinking, Pavlovian fashion, which was disturbing to say the least, but perhaps a subconscious result of sensing the impossibility of connecting. So here I am, back in my safe European world, but where at least my kids can go out at night.
July 8, 2014
July 7, 2014
first published here: http://thinkfest.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/from-how-do-you-do-to-fu/
July 1, 2014
book your tickets here: https://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/2014-festival/festival-programme/