Guest Editorial by Efemia Chela and Bongani Kona

Type/Cast Issue 4: Contested Spaces

The prevailing mood of our times is one of disquiet. As readers and writers, we can trust our intuition. Something ain’t right, it tells us. Turn on the news. Log onto social media. And it’s the same story. Bodies emerging from rubble. Obtuse dictators yelling into microphones. Public money siphoned into private tropical bank accounts. All this against the backdrop of the slow burn of global warming.

What can writing do in these times, when nothing, not even ourselves, seems securely held in place? The answer: it can help us live. Living is political, taking up our own space in the world can be enough. Living is the main concern of the poem “Floating Around.” It expresses the spontaneity that throbs in road trips and a small reclamation of land and peace.

Most of the pieces selected for this issue of Type/Cast contest regimes of power that seek to erase persons pushed into marginal positions in society. “Dark Kali,” rich and defiant, rises off the page. The young woman in the poem contests ideas about her body, beauty and future, unapologetically. She is her own; she will not be any man’s blank space to be filled. Similarly, “there must be black angels in heaven” presents the reader with an eloquent act of refusal. A visit to a souvenir shop “to buy a brown angel doll/for my baby niece” leads to a philosophical inquiry into economies of beauty that exclude blackness. Surely, they also have black girls in heaven, don’t they?

“Across Rooftops” is a crisp vignette of life in Japan. It is a nation with a vast ageing population and with so many elderly, one cannot help but wonder about the lives they lived. When reading it one feels the contradiction of the behemoth—Tokyo. The isolation and closeness one feels there as well as its mystery when viewed as a gaijin—outsider.

Being apart, not a part of something, is another theme that threads through the writing in this issue.

“Queer(in) Love” shows us the transgressive nature of a couple in love and how they are try to contest heteronormative ideals of love and carve out a space for queerness. Words spoken and written are space. They take it up and when they are reclaimed, questioned or subverted, contestation happens. “Queer(in) Love” takes us on a journey from the spaces the two know (their homes, their family) to places they aren’t entirely familiar with yet, new grounds for love and pleasure. Things are bittersweet:

No matter how head over heels in love we are, the world still bleeds its way
onto our tongues
our hands
our skin.

Contested Spaces show us the battle is not yet over. The world still bleeds its way/onto our tongues but we are writing our way towards the creation of freer spaces. Spaces where we can be. Spaces where we can live.


Efemia Chela was born in 1991 and is a Zambian-Ghanaian writer, literary critic and editor. Her first published story, “Chicken” was nominated for The 2014 Caine Prize For African Writing. Efemia’s subsequent short stories and poems have been published in places like Short.Sharp.Stories: Adults Only, New InternationalistWasafiri, TOKEN and PEN Passages: Africa. She recently co-edited the 2016 Short Story Day Africa collection, Migrations. Efemia is currently the Francophone and Contributing Editor for The Johannesburg Review of Books.

Bongani Kona is a writer and editor based in Cape Town. His writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites and most recently in Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories. He was shortlisted for the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing and he is the co-editor of Migrations, an anthology of short fiction from Short Story Day Africa. 

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