Friday, December 15, 2017
Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War
Lene Berg, Stalin by Picasso or Portrait of a Woman with Moustache, 2008. Façade-banner. Courtesy the artist.
In Amos Tutuola’s 1954 novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the young protagonist is running away from slave-catchers when he accidently crosses the border of reality as he knows it. His flight from bondage, however, does not earn him freedom. Rather, he finds himself in an absurd, liminal world of conversing symbols and delirious phantasms, in which the entire regime of meaning-production is subject to tectonic shifts. Tutuola—whose idiosyncratic use of English language and Yoruba folklore propelled a battle of interpretations—would later become a member of the Mbari Clubs, the first of which was established in Ibadan in 1961. These cultural centers, initiated by the German-Jewish expatriate Ulli Beier, were a gathering place for a generation of African artists, writers, and musicians. Together, they spearheaded a renaissance of Yoruba culture.