On our Lists this week: Bernie Worrell, Ian McDonald, and Njabulo Ndebele

The Reading List

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald (Gollancz, 2015)

Set a century or so in the future, Luna: New Moon is a dynastic space opera about the corporate colonisation of the Moon. McDonald himself has described it variously as Game of Domes and Dallas in space and, though those are apt, they don’t quite do the novel justice. Five multigenerational families control the Moon and its helium mining operations, which turn a pretty penny providing the Earth with clean energy. They constantly plot with and against each other, playing both the short game and the long. As the book starts, one of those long games is just about to start its final act. Assassinations, weddings, funerals, coups and chaos ensue. It’s fantastic. It’s also filthy. You’ll love it. (MdP)

The Rediscovery of the Ordinary by Njabulo Ndebele

I have mobilised a number of texts from books I have read that have enabled me in my critical work to reflect differently on artistic practice. One such book has been Rediscovery of the Ordinary by Njabulo Ndebele. Although the book is intended in part to problematise anti-apartheid literature, it also offers certain tools of analysis that can be applied to visual arts. Among the problems it addresses is the tendency to build narratives around the spectacular encounter with the brutality of apartheid to the exclusion of more subtle everyday consequences of the regime. He accuses protest literature of resorting to reportage, rather than the writers using their imagination to tell compelling stories. In a similar way, he addresses how the resistance art of the 1980s and the early 1990s becomes less about how to overcome apartheid and more about victimhood. (KG)

The Playlist

Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth (directed by Philip Di Fiore)

“There’s a price too for being free, man,” says a younger Yasiin Bey in this enduring documentary tribute to the synthesiser maestro who died in 2016. “There’s a toll. You may take some licks, man. You may get jumped, you may get robbed. You’ll cry, and then what?” Bernie Worrell, a mainstay in Parliament-Funkadelic formations, created a new tonal language on the synthesiser, a sound basically co-opted by the G-funk movement associated with California hip-hop. For Worrell, the price was a life of obscurity, owning none of his pioneering work and, eventually, death by cancer. (KS)

The Lists were compiled by Khwezi Gule (KG), Matthew du Plessis (MdP) and Kwanele Sosibo (KS)

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