Drawing on the shared history and lived experiences that People of African Descent (PAD) share both on the continent and abroad, Nora Chirikure founded the ISUSU-Ffena platform to discuss, celebrate and highlight what it means to be of African descent. Discussing intersectionality, shared obstacles and New Pan-Afrikanism, we sat down with Nora to discuss the past, present and future.
Name: Nora Chirikure Currently based in: Berlin, Germany Education: Bachelors in Liberal Arts and Sciences (Politics, Philosophy and
Economics from Erasmus University, Rotterdam )
Masters in Economics and Management Science (Humboldt University
of Berlin) Title: Curator and Co-Founder of Isusu Ffena, founder of Isusu Festival.
In 2019, you founded and curated the ISUSU Pan-Afrikan Festival, which later evolved into co-founding the collective Isusu Ffena. Could you tell us what the festival is and how it runs?
The Isusu Pan-African Festival aims to bring us together as Afrikans* to celebrate ourselves while shedding light on an intersectional, sustainable and queer Afrika. In August 2019, the first edition of Isusu Festival was launched as one of its kind featuring over 40 extraordinary artists, activists and changemakers hailing from Germany, Europe and the African continent. Across the three themes of Afrofuturism, Pan-African Storytelling and Climate Justice, the festival consisted of 11 events, including performances, film screenings, an Afrovegan pop up brunch, panel discussions, live music and two parties. You’ve mentioned that one of your aims with the festival was creating a narrative of new pan-Africanism. How does this differ from the traditional understanding of the concept? I would say that it builds on the existing understanding of Pan Afrikanism. We believe in Pan Afrikanism as an ideology as we have recognised that the fate of People of African Descendant (PAD) are connected, and that many challenges facing PAD can be linked to racism. Building on this understanding, we as a collective are exploring ways in which the Pan-Afrikan spirit can thrive – ways that are inclusive of those who have in the past, not been actively included in shaping the “African Dream” (such as women and queer people).
As the festival expanded, you enlisted the help of like-minded friends Rutendo, Lorna and Tondi, as well as your sister, Mareika. How have you adjusted your working style now that you no longer work alone? I am learning to trust the co-mamas (as Rutendo calls it) of the collective. I have had to learn to let loose a bit and not to be involved in every aspect of Isusu Ffena’s work. I have worked in teams before, but this one was different because it’s my baby. Nevertheless, as I am aware that it’s everyone’s baby, I can always trust that the co-mamas also want the best for the collective. The biggest lesson has been that I cannot just make any decision by myself and expect that everyone will be fine with it (even if I am convinced that it is a good move), I have to consult the others.
You’ve said that your role in the team is to, ‘bring forth ideas’. What kinds of things have you put into place and what inspires them? Currently, we are working on a project that looks into the Pan Afrikan congresses and other significant conferences that have shaped the lives of Afrikans* (such as the Congo Conference 1884). Within this project, we are focusing on the involvement (or absence of) womxn, the elitist nature of the conferences and the outcomes of the conferences, among other aspects. We will collaborate with artists to create an exhibition, and curate events such as panel discussions around relevant topics.
What inspires me to do this work is that I believe that if we understood and reflected on our past and present situation better, we would be better equipped in fighting racism. Firstly, we need to be clear on what the problem is - what the injustices are. From there, we can find relevant ways of doing better by seeing what has been done already – what those before us could have done better and in what ways we can continue the work that they started.
In recognition of one of your other passions, economics and business, you are currently involved in building a black business network in Germany. What can we expect from this network? I am part of the Sangano Business Hub initiative in Berlin. In the near future, we are looking into opening a physical space where Afrikans can co-work and receive business support through information, resources and services that empower and build businesses in order to create African wealth. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? I plan on still being in Berlin with Isusu Ffena and the Sangano Business Hub – doing similar work to what I am doing just at a larger scale – bigger teams and more funding. Finally, you’ve said that part of what led you to create the festival were the comments people made about how much you cared about pan-Africanism and the importance of creating an inclusive narrative. What advice do you have for people trying to figure out what their passion is and how to make use of it constructively? Never stop learning, stay curious. I find that for the work I do, it is very important that I have an understanding of others. Through reading, actively watching films, attending events, listening to others, I have learnt a lot. I encourage anyone who wants to connect people to dedicate enough time to actively engage with their community.
Three Things About Nora… Favourite author – Bernadine Evaristo Fantasy job - Advisor in the Ministry of Arts & Culture Currently streaming – Game Changers
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