“One morning you might look in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at you. The feeling of time is missing, and so is the feeling of space. You’re here and at the same time you’re there. Poor you, you’ve lost your sense of identity! But the good news is: your imagination still works fine. Who you are is imaginary anyway. And with your identity in transit you can still imagine new selves, new paths and futures. But how do you envision the future? Is the future unknown, because you have lost parts of your past? Or do you own many futures as you’ve been freed from the past? Nothing is certain.”
With these provoking sentences, the reader is challenged to deep-dive into the supplement Arts of the Working Class No. 15 – Decolomania. The edition was published as an extension of the Berlin festival Re:Writing the Future held on 25-28 of February 2021, a digital multi-day festival about artistic freedom, spaces of resilience and international solidarity.
Edited by Egyptian poet and ICORN resident Mohammed Ashraf and Elisabeth Wellerhaus, the texts are an invitation to explore, get lost, and coincide with others on the page. The paper includes contributions from a diverse array of writers and artists including Asli Erdogan, Ahmed Naji, Ganzeer, Zamira Abbasova, Vivien Tauchmann, Somaya El Sousi, Pegah Ahmadi, Nada Al-Khawwam and Amani Aboshabana. On the last page, selected pieces from an open call crowd around an empty space: the space left as an invitation for the reader to be an active participant, one more voice on the page.
Indeed, it is hard to be simply a passive observer from the moment one begins to read the first piece “The Creature,” a futuristic reinterpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of Red Death” by the novelist and essayist Asli Erdogan. No sooner has one come out for air than the homesickness for a lost home in Zamira Abbasova’s “Pomegranate Nation” hits and leaves one reeling. There is that same bitter, yet irrevocable love for home in the collaboration by Egyptians Ahmed Naji and Ganzeer “The Tanta Museum of White History. ” It comes across even as they humorously - but also very seriously - explore the idea of a museum that turns white supremacy on its head. We then turn to Mohammed Ashraf’s essay which provides a critique to representative democracy and explores the potential of big data to put human complexity into account. But perhaps, where one can see most clearly the messiness, beauty and power of “many languages, one entity” is through the poetry by Pegah Ahmadi, Nada Al-Khawwam and Amani Aboshabana.
“Many writers who live in exile find themselves divided between where they live now and where they used to live before. We wanted to contemplate on this here-there sort of status, though, without limiting it to where we locate. We thought of here-there as a dense concept that is dimensional in the time-space. Within it we break the boundaries of our present to navigate through our past or future. We asked our writers: how could we foresee a future through this fluid status of being? Could we depart from our unsettled selves on the microscale to think of an unsettled world on the macro? Could we break the boundaries of the very intimate hereness of our own identities and see them in a status of otherness and vice versa?” - Mohammed Ashraf
This special issue, just like the Re:Writing the Future Festival, is a testament to the power of creativity and imagination that artists hold. At a time of global uncertainty, poetry, fiction, visual art can help open eyes to new visions for the future, ones that include diverse and resilient communities. It is fitting that this supplement was made possible by the DAAD Artist-in-Berlin Program and ICORN, two organizations that support artists in exile, so that they can be architects of the future in their home countries and their new countries of residence.
Arts of the Working Class is a multi-lingual street journal on poverty and wealth, art and society that is published every two months and contains contributions by artists and thinkers from different fields and in different languages.
To read the full supplement or download a PDF copy, please click here. To read more from Arts of the Working Class, visit their website. Videos of the live events held at the Re:Writing the Future Festival can be watched on their website and through the event pages in their programme archive.