FIXIONS 2017: ON (STILL) REDISCOVERING THE ORDINARY
Rhodes University MA in Creative Writing Colloquium, 14/ 15 July 2017
CALL FOR PAPERS (15 mins) firstname.lastname@example.org Abstract Deadline: 3 July
If Tutuola trades in African myths and folklore, can we credit him with originality and imagination? Yes. For the artist’s material is the very earth you tread on, the very traffic accident you see, the very mourning your unlucky neighbour is going through, the very turbulation that agonizes lovers, the very fear of darkness and noise you had as a child. The artist appropriates all this [ordinary] stuff, and in the depths of his imaginative funnel, transmits it, so that the finished material which emerges at the end of the conveyor belt is a gem…
Taban Lo Liyong
1969: Taban Lo Liyong publishes FIXIONS, a collection of “literary innovations and curiosities,” and from which we shamelessly appropriate the term FIXIONS for our own edification in the hope that something of the original will rub off on us.
1984: Njabulo Ndebele calls for a writing that rediscovers the ordinary, a writing that reminds him “of Haitian painting: vibrant with colour, a combination of naturalistic and fantastic elements” that will “reveal the necessary knowledge of actual reality.” Such writing, he maintains, will “reveal new possibilities of understanding and action.”
Context: Apartheid South Africa. Much of the writing at this time is given the misnomer of “protest literature” – a reactive “literature of the powerless identifying the key factor responsible for their powerlessness.”
Ndebele’s radically creative challenge, underscored by examples of the day, is that “the spectacle” attenuates the creative impulse even when the creative impulse seems most active. Indeed, “[t]he habit of looking at the spectacle has forced us to gloss over the nooks and crannies” of the “ordinary day to day lives of people [applying] systems of values that they know,” he writes, and further cites Joel Matlou’s magnificent act of resistance against the “liberal image” of, for example, mine workers as “pathetic sufferers.”
1985: Philosopher Gilles Deleuze also calls for something of a return of the ordinary via “the pure and simple story?telling function”. For Deleuze, the “story-telling function” is a most formidable “power of the false” set in opposition not to the real or the truth, but to the currently powerful regime or model of truth. Where are the poor? Where are the Palestinians? Nowhere, echo the neoliberals and Israelis alike. Those people are missing, they say, and may never have existed to begin with. To which Deleuze counters: “The moment the master or the colonizer, proclaims ‘There have never been people here’, the missing people are a becoming, they invent themselves, in shanty towns and camps, or in ghettos, in new conditions of struggle to which a necessarily political art must contribute.”
2009: In her manifesto for fairy tale writing, Kate Bernheimer holds that the “flatness, abstraction, intuitive logic, and normalized magic [of] fairy tales hold[s] a key to the door fiercely locked between so?called realism and nonrealism, convention and experimentalism, psychology and abstraction.”
Is it not time to ask once more whether “the culture of the spectacular…has run its course?” We are not seeking to resurrect the debate concerning Ndebele’s paper. We take its conclusions as pre?emptions of a future to come as we slide precipitously into the ever unfolding present (of the neoliberal apocalypse).
Academic or free style/creative presentations welcomed.
What can FIXION do today? // What is the creative act? // How does FIXION create “new possibilities of understanding and action”? // Where is the writer in relation to Ndebele’s radical call for the creation “of a new society […] an uncompromisingly toughminded creative will to build a new civilisation”? // Are we drowning in the depth(s) of fiction’s backstory despite the hand offered by the FIXION of the fairy tale form? // What does ordinary magic look like, how does it work? // What of Prophetic Creations, Trauma, Divination, the Fantastic? // What does POLITICAL mean in a post-political world? // What role does magic play in the everyday? //
Certain nights, in Khayamnandi, [an] unlanguaged world comes to life. The narrow streets come alive with izithunzela and iziporho and drunks and other night?time pedestrians. This is so especially on weekends. At times, I can’t tell the difference between who’s real and who’s not. – Unathi Slasha
Be in a conscious mistake-making state of mind, perhaps our best defence against pervasive robotism – Taban Lo Liyong
Abstract Deadline: 3 July