Tsitsi Jaji is a poet, writer, and associate professor at Duke University. It is in her academic book Africa in Stereo; Music, Modernism, and Pan-African Solidarity that the project mujejeje derives its title and draws from her ideas and thinking around sounding solidarity, shared music histories, media, and technology. The prologue and epilogue are positioned in Zimbabwe – where she was born and raised – forming the beginning and end in research that resonates out to South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, and across the Atlantic, tracing the twentieth-century cultural history and black transnational ties.
Jaji is joined by Antawan I Byrd, associate curator of Photography and Media at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was co-curator of the 2nd Lagos Biennial of Contemporary Art 2019 and associate curator for the 10th Bamako Encounters, African Biennale of Photography 2015. A doctoral candidate in art history at Northwestern University, Byrd’s dissertation is salient to the conversation in that it explores the role of listening in sixties-era politics as manifested through art and aesthetic practices across the Afro-Atlantic world.
mujejeje, singing stones, form a departure point in the conversation between Jaji and Byrd, as they journey into the realm of acoustic archaeology, and then navigate through photography to traverse Zimbabwe in 1965 — what was then colonial Rhodesia at a critical moment in history, UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) — to 1960s independent Mali, Senegal and Algeria. Through the medium of radio, they explore the role of listening in politics and social life; how memory and senses intertwine; and how these are encoded into images, collective and everyday practices.
An ongoing research project was initiated in 2019.
The 2021 programme is supported by Pro Helvetia Johannesburg financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) through its Regional Arts Progamme.