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  • Writer's pictureMuhammad Dawjee

Otherness & the radical imaginary

In about a month we record an EP that’s been in process in my mind and spirit for some time now. What follows are some thoughts I've had about the work (and cultural work more broadly), the process and how I'm beginning to make sense of its purpose.

I stop to reflect on the moment we find ourselves in. A country shattered by a sickness of violence that very possibly has reached the point of no return. I think of my own position, the power, choice and privilege I wield – as an artist, as a man and as a person of colour in our society. I think about the necessity of grounded cultural work as a functional tool for collective resistance and self-realisation. I think about the responsibility of all this and that such resistance lies squarely on our individual capacities, our thoughts and behaviours. The resistance also lies heavily on the consciousness of men to do the work of undoing and being real about the world we’ve been wallowing in.

I think of the process that my work is currently undergoing and how its formation and becoming relates to our collective place and time. I question pre-existing beliefs about the role and value of creative work and the imagination - for myself and for society. Could radical imaginaries (or simply sonic representations thereof) liberate us from the constraints of a lived reality that is so immediately threatening? Is this notion even viable anymore?

"Revolutionary Art insists on the whole world as its measure and the equality of being. It demands and forces in the human consciousness the outline of the whole self of the world, it connects is and be. It proves their materiality."

Amiri Baraka

The world we know is escalating urgently and more violently into siloed towers of hegemony and homogeneity. In this moment, I take a moment to re-resist and remain on the ground, if only through acknowledging the transcendent character of my own being (and beings like me) in the world. I acknowledge the power of possibility in the multiple beings I am and could be. I acknowledge the indifference with which the world has seen me, my inability to fit squarely into categories pre-determined and my willingness to sit at the threshold. I acknowledge that this loneliness is not a place of being alone, but rather the loneliness of a void, that is constantly reshaped to escape dominant ideology and cultural obfuscation (or being relegated to the lost tradition of old). I acknowledge that this alterity is a place for guerrillas like you and I who do not wish to situate, but to create freely from the fragments of our segmented histories.

Otherness is about this outer and this beyond. With a second sight and a double speak we simultaneously occupy and do not occupy multiple worlds, practices and identities. We are situated in situations of conflict, not by our own choice, but out of necessity and desire. We confront the internal contradictions that determine our accents, our dialects and our bodies. We remember the debt that is to be repaid – for all that which we are historically owed: the silencing of our people through imperial domination and continued ethnic cleansing, the legacy of our colonised minds, their immobilised bodies, the removal of our ability to self-determine and the loss of networks of traditions thousands of years old.

We have never and do not belong. And it is in our irreducible unbelonging that we may find some liberation. It is in this unbelonging, in this place apart that we really need to dwell.

It is in this nowhere place, of nowhere people that we may see ourselves, as a necessary part of humanity and, perhaps even, its hidden centre.


Otherness EP

Keenan Ahrends (Guitar)

Romy Brauteseth (Double bass)

Nicholas Bjorkman (Drums)

Lwanda Gogwana (Trumpet + Flugelhorn)

Muhammad Dawjee (Tenor Saxophone)

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