Akwaeke Emezi - revolutionary imagination

Akwaeke Emezi’s revolutionary imagination | Overland literary journal

/threads on imagination, storytelling, politics, and revolution //

/ the main crux for me is in this one paragraph //

In truth, however, Emezi’s body of work is exactly that: a body, a coherent organism, bound by common aesthetic and political preoccupations. Especially in the three books published in 2022, a distinctive Emezi vision of a better world can be discerned. Although each is a self-standing text, all reshape our imaginations in service of the same revolution: the liberation of Black peoples from the literal and mental chains of white colonial capitalism. ==It’s a revolution against violent white institutions—police, prisons, the patriarchal family—but, just as importantly, it’s an uprising against white ways of being. The revolution will be ontological or it will be bullshit.==

/ some context setting at the beginning //

Back in 2004, as the ‘war on terror’ heralded a new age of fear and violence, Rebecca Solnit published Hope in the Dark, an argument against despair in the face of an unknowable future. The book, which went on to be hailed as a Guardian‘best book of the 21st century’, insisted upon the world-shaping power of storytelling. ‘Stories trap us, stories free us, we live and die by stories,’ Solnit wrote. To her mind, ‘politics arises out of the spread of ideas and the shaping of imaginations. It means symbolic and cultural acts have real political power.’ In other words, ‘the change that counts in revolution takes place first in the imagination.’

Eighteen years later, with the political stakes higher than ever, you’d be hard pressed to find a more potent revolutionary of our collective imagination than Akwaeke Emezi—a writer who conjures alternative worlds that centre ~Indigenous ontologies~ and cherish Black queer bodies. Following in the footsteps of Black visionaries like Toni Morrison and bell hooks, Emezi leans into the power of language and storytelling to widen the horizons of the possible. As they explained in a Time magazine ‘Next Generation Leader’ profile in 2021, ‘The first step to creating a better world is being able to imagine it.’ According to Emezi, ‘stories can create a bridge between what is possible and what we actually make happen.’

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