M. NourbeSe Philip

Zong!

Can a collective performance of NourbeSe’s poem of black life as it exceeds containment enact alternative forms of selfhood that emerge in and out of African diasporic experience?

"A brash, unsettling book, Zong! wants to chant or shout history down, shut history up… Fretful, possessed, obsessed, upset, curse and homeopathy, both, it visits a breathtaking run of glossolalic scat upon historical trauma." Nathaniel Mackay. Can a collective performance of NourbeSe’s poem of black life as it exceeds containment enact alternative forms of selfhood that emerge in and out of African diasporic experience?

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  • Zong! Handout

    Extract

    Zong! attempts to not-tell the story that must be told yet can’t be told – the story of the Zong massacre in 1781 in which the captain of the eponymous slave ship throws overboard some 150 enslaved Africans in order to collect payment of insurance monies. Through fragments of words and phrases a contrapuntal rhythm of word and silence is created as the story untells itself. 

    Multilingual, multiethnic and multiracial, the globalised universe of the slave ship is a space of extreme contraction and restriction, it is rule-bound and closely girded and guarded by the law and religion. It is essentially a space of terror. 

    The collective reading of Zong!, as does the work itself, attempts a radical subversion of the ideas that spawned these historical events by creating a space that allows for the paradox of being in a world that negated all such possibilities for the enslaved Africans on board the ship.

     

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