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Call for Submissions – MATTERS IN BLACK: The ‘black register’ as a meditative force for black Africans – edited by Tendayi Sithole


BKO, March 2023 | Vol 5, No 1, 2023

Publishing house: Geko
Publishing Editor: Phehello J. Mofokeng
Guest editor: Tendayi Sithole
Contributors: Various

MATTERS IN BLACK: The ‘black register’ as a meditative force for black Africans: A love letter to posterity; ed. Tendayi Sithole

We are pleased to announce that BKO Poetry & Literature Magazine is currently accepting submissions under the theme: “Matters in Black: The ‘black register’ as a meditative force for black Africans: A love letter to posterity”. We are accepting essays, photo essays, poems and fiction or any other forms of expression that explore this topic in innovative and engaging ways, and we invite writers of all backgrounds and levels of experience to submit their work.

This edition of BKO, will feature a range of voices and perspectives, and we are particularly interested in work that takes an interdisciplinary approach and draws on a variety of fields and disciplines. We welcome submissions from writers working in academia, creative writing, journalism and beyond, domiciled anywhere in the world.

“Black register” is a concept in black aesthetics that refers to a way of seeing and interpreting the world that is shaped by black experiences and cultural expressions. It emphasizes the importance of centering blackness and black perspectives in artistic and cultural production.

Tendayi Sithole, Guest Editor for this edition of BKO Magazine, asks how can black thinkers – even mere writers, creatives, and plebeians – confront and make sense of a world structured by antiblackness, a world that militates against the very existence of blacks?

In this edition, Sithole asks us to revisit the ‘black register’ as an extension of black aesthetics; a critical viewpoint of the existential experience of blacks. The ‘black register’, as envisioned by other scholars before, is also a way to further engage in conversations around black liberation, to continue to challenge the systems of oppression that have long been in place and to amplify the voices of black people everywhere.

“Black register is the thrust or force of critique that comes from thinkers who are dehumanized, and who in turn question, define, and analyze the reality that they are in, in order to reframe it and unmask the forces that inform subjection.”

BKO’s first edition of 2023 focuses on this black condition and ‘black register’ – the experiences of black people in any shape, manner or form that they exist in. By focusing on the black aesthetic and black creative output, BKO explores different branches of ‘black register’ – of fashion, dance, music, writing etc – that remains in the ‘chokehold’ of antiblackness in all its permutations – be it (neo)capitalism, (neo)apartheid, false freedoms and insipid racism and racial tensions …

This Edition further explores the nuances of the ‘black register’ in the hope of unearthing the power within and of the collective spirit of blackness. BKO calls for submissions to celebrate, highlight or simply relate to the black register and blackness in all its creative breadth.

We are looking for work that interrogates the positionality of blackness in the mire of creating, of the creative process in a near-apoplectic state of our existence. We are looking for work that not only celebrates and honours the black condition but also challenges it and reimagines our collective narrative.

We are looking for work that speaks to the nuances of our collective existence and to the spirit of collective resistance and resilience. The power of the black register and the collective spirit of blackness lies in its ability to create a space to share stories, perspectives and experiences, and to push back against oppressive systems and structures. According to scholar Fred Moten, the ‘black register’ is “an alternative way of accounting for the value of blackness that takes the form of a set of stylistic and formal constraints.” These constraints are not limitations but rather opportunities for creative expression that are rooted in the particular experiences and history of black people.

We are looking for essays, personal notes, poems, short/flash fiction and critiques of blackness and their black aesthetics. We are looking for work that celebrates, reflects, gesticulates and meditates on blackness and the black register. We are looking for work that speaks to the nuances of our collective existence and to the spirit of collective resistance and resilience.

There is no maximum limit to the length or quantity of submissions. The work must be original and previously unpublished. If the submission has been published before, a release letter or communication is required from the previous publisher. The work can be in any language. In such case, the original work must be submitted together with an English translation / interpretation of the same work.

To submit your work, please send an email to editor@bkomagazine.co.za with the subject line “BKO March 2023: Essay Collection Submission.” Please include your essay as an attachment in either Word or PDF format, and include a brief bio in the body of the email. We ask that you also include a short statement about how your essay relates to the theme of the collection. The deadline for submissions is 20 March 2023, and we aim to notify contributors of our decision from 25 March 2023. If your work is accepted, you will be notified by email. We look forward to reading your submissions and are excited to bring together a diverse and thought-provoking collection of essays on “Matters in Black.”

Deadline for submissions: 20 March 2023

Reverts, revisions and acknowledgements of receipt: From 25 March 2023

Expected release date of the Edition: Mid-April 2023

Submission format: We accept Microsoft Word documents and PDFs only.

Submissions email address: editor@bkomagazine.co.za


If we consider the black condition at this moment, we cannot help but realise the “constant state of tension” or rage that permeates black lives wherever they exist. It is Baldwin who reminds us of this constant state of tension – only exacerbated by different permutations of blackness and black lives.

He writes, “The Negro is, in short, the key figure in the American experience because his oppression is unique in its antiquity, in its intensification in the United States, and in its legacy of resistance.” This statement is both a declaration of the reality of black life and a call to action. It is a reminder that the oppression of black people is rooted in centuries of racism and discrimination, and that the consequences of this oppression are still felt today. The “constant state of tension” that Baldwin speaks of is a call to action for blacks to come into full existence, freedom, liberty – despite the violence that surrounds them.

Derived from the many different takes on the black experience, black thought and black writing, Sithole militates for a revisit of the Moten’s ‘black register’. In what he calls “Matters in Black” Sithole’s position is that of asking questions in and through discourse about extra/ordinary matters of black life in and through black artists, thinkers, authors, poets, academics, practitioners and average society. This position (or its intended meaning) skirts the typical, stereotypical traps of writing about black aesthetics.

Black aesthetics – or the delineation, interpretations and objectives of the black artists’ engagement in the process of creating and producing – requires a constant check up and ‘black register’ is the stethoscope on the pulse of the state of cultural production / existence of blacks. It provides a space for black people to share their stories, thoughts and perspectives thereby pushing back against the structures and systems of oppression that lead to the “constant state of tension” that Baldwin speaks of.

As a result, Sithole’s retrace of the black register is an attempt to create a pathway towards collective liberation, where the voices of all black people are heard, respected and celebrated, and freedom in blackness is within reach; even if only conceptually. Fanon decries the same fate of blacks everywhere. It is this combination of Fanon, Baldwin, Moten, Sithole and other black thinkers that came before them that have framed a way for blacks to think about themselves in their ‘constant state of tension.’

Cheikh Anta Diop is also direct in his rebuttal of the history of civilisation of the nations of the world – placing black Africans at the head of civilisation. The intersectionality of these black thinkers and theorists has been a means of understanding how racism and oppression has impacted black lives throughout history.

From Fanon and Diop to Baldwin, these theorists have provided a unified voice of resistance and resilience against the inequalities and injustices faced by black people, and have shed light on the need for collective action in order to create a more just and equitable world. Their work has shifted and shaped the way we think about blackness. This intersectionality of thought has been an invaluable tool in the fight for intellectual and other forms of existence of blacks. It is within this frame of thinking that ‘black register’ can be seen as another lens of celebrating, reflecting, gesticulating and meditating on black lives – without the need to prove our worth in the equilibrium of the world of arts, culture, entertainment, capital and elsewhere. These thinkers use their lived experiences and their understanding of the systems and structures that shape their reality to question and challenge dominant narratives and power structures. By reframing and unmasking these forces, they seek to expose and dismantle the ways in which they contribute to subjugation and marginalization. Ultimately, the black register is a means of resistance and liberation, as it empowers those who have been dehumanized to take control of their own narratives and to shape their own futures.



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