a limited ajabu ajabu release
dir. Martin Mhando & Ron Mulvihill
The story of three women - a doctor, her patient, and the mysterious ancestor who unites them. A powerful meditation on the toll of displaced history and an essential work of Tanzanian cinema.
by Jesse Gerard
Alice Walker wrote that watching Maangamizi is to experience reconnection. “The reconnection to The Way. The Way of the ancestors. The Way of relating to all. Then to now. Beginning to future. Human to earth.” Her method, a letter written to Queenae Mulvihill, the writer of Maangamizi, and Ron Mulvihill, who co-directed alongside Martin Mhando, has also fallen away from everyday use. These shifts continue, power today redefines the very method by which we interact with each other and our world. Yet words endure, stories endure, and those blessed with a spiritual proximity to such things, and an insistence on the imaginative over the calculated, will find themselves emboldened by Walker’s belief that “in the coming millennium the greatly prayed for difference in this world will be a conscious and connected indigenous presence.”
That presence pervades this film, and a story through which history and imagination merge to extend and even excise limiting parameters of existence. It is with this in mind, the excising of limiting parameters of life, that we undertake the retelling of this singular work, twenty years on.
Everyday Use, a short story by Alice Walker, sees the return of a sophisticated woman to her uneducated mother in their provincial home. Her visit is in part to see the place from which she (and by implication her success) emerged; in part to share the new name she has adopted in recognition of her heritage; and in part to locate objects that reflect her own story in the context of that history – objects that she may take ownership of. Her mother has other ideas. And in response to her mother’s wish to retain hand made quilts passed down from her grandmother for her younger sister she responds with horror, noting that her sister would be “backward enough to put them to everyday use.”
The story was published in 1973 but its questions are equally insistent today. Questions rooted in inequality, displacement, erasure, that emerge again and again in discontinuities existing across African consciousness – at home, and abroad - in language, education, economics, and other drivers of daily life. In the context of such displacement, the dissonance enforced by historical and contemporary acts of African dispossession, blankets cease to be blankets should they contain the texture of endurance. Echoes of lost traditions, cultures and ways of life linger in modest acts of remembrance across spectrums of class and education, and in our encounters and re-encounters with meticulously stored letters or photos albums it is difficult to stem persistent thoughts of absence, and disconnection from larger, more abundant birthrights. Yet these are often, if not always, quieted by the what these guarded objects inspire when shared closely and intentionally. Communion has always been the means by which life transcends the material.
Ajabu Ajabu derives its name from the Kiswahili for odd, strange, unusual.
We consider the re-release – one forged on large and small collaborations and exchanges with artists of all kinds – locally and abroad – to be in league with this strangeness, the kind consistently setting craft, imagination, intuition, inventiveness and empathy at odds with pathologies of procedural being. We begin, as we intend to proceed, aware of persistently homogenized perspectives, in cinema and elsewhere, but committed to stemming that particular tide by putting great stories to everyday use.
And it with this, we invite you by any mode preferred— physical, digital, vocal, filmic, literary, other – to our re-telling of Maangamizi: The Ancient One.
Everyday Use (Matumizi ya kila siku), ni hadithi fupi ya Alice Walker inayoelezea kurudi kwa mwanamke wa kisasa kwa mama yake ambaye hakusoma. Ziara yake ina sehemu tatu: kwanza, ni kutembelea eneo alikotoka, pili ni kuelezea mafunuo mapya yanayomuongoza kuthamini tamaduni zake, tatu ni kutafuta kumbukumbu za ukoo za kumiliki kama ishara ya urithi. Mama yake ashindwa kumeelewa. Na pale mwanamke huyo anaponyimwa blanketi zilizo fumwa na mabibi zao ili zibaki na mdogo wake anajibu kwa kero, akisema “huyo! Kwa akili zake ataziigiza tu kwenye matumizi ya kila siku”
Hadithi hiyo ilichapishwa mnamo 1973 lakini somo lake linahusika leo. Somo lenye mada za usawa, uhamisho, maangamizi, ambalo huibuka tena na tena katika ufahamu wa Kiafrika kwenye nyendo za lugha, elimu, uchumi, na mengineo barani. Kwenye muktadha wa vitendo, kihistoria na sasa, vya uporaji wa tamaduni na rasilimali za Afrika, bidhaa za ukoo au urithi za geuka kiashirio cha ustaimili. Mvumo wa mila zilizopotea huskika katika vitendo vyetu vya ukumbusho na ni ngumu kuona picha au barua zilizohafidhiwa na wahenga wetu bila kuwazia yale mengine mengi yaliopotea na kupotezeshwa ndani ya urithi. Lakini mara nyingi, isiwe kila saa, haya mawazo hutulizwa na hadithi zilizomo ndani ya hizo kumbukumbu – hasa ambapo zikihusishwa kwa karimu na uthubutu.
Alice Walker aliandika kwamba kutazama filamu ya Maangamizi ni "Kuunganishwa tena na Njia. Njia za wahenga. Njia inayohusisha wote”. Ujumbe huo umehifadhiwa kwenye barua iliyoandikwa kwa Queenae Mulvihill, mwandishi wa Maangamizi, na Ron Mulvihill, ambaye aliongoza pamoja na Martin Mhando. Barua nazo ni miongoni mwa vitu ambavyo havina sehemu tena katika matumizi ya kila siku. Mabadiliko haya yanaendelea, na watawala wa uchumi wa dunia huendelea kuzalisha bidhaa ambazo zinabadilisha uhusiano wetu. Lakini neno la stahimili, hadithi zastahimili, na wale wote waliobarikiwa na ukaribu wa fani zenye msisitizo wa wazo na bunifu lazima watongezwa ujasiri kujuwa imani ya Walker ni kwamba "katika milenia ijayo tofauti katika ulimwengu huu itakuwa muamsho wa fahumu za kiasili."
Ajabu Ajabu hupata jina lake kwa msemo unaomaanisha siyo cha kawaida, au kitu cha kushangaza. Katika toleo hii mpya ya Maangamizi twazingatia neno hii kwa hadhi ya ubunifu ili kupinga mibano ya fikra. Tunaanza kwa kusudi ya kuendelea kujikita kati ya mjadala na usikivu wa mitazamo tofauti kwa nia ya kuzipa hadithi zetu uhai kwa kuingiza filamu zenye maana na uhalisia katika matumizi ya kila siku.
20TH ANNIVERSARY POSTER EXHIBITION
As part of the launch of the 20th Anniversary at Zanzibar International Film Festival 2021, visual artists and designers were invited to re-imagine the film poster for Maangamizi.
A selection were exhibited at the film festival and the winning poster designer was commissioned to support the creative branding of the re-release.
Explore the works in our online exhibition below.
Tanzania's Meraki Collective creatively recreates the Maangamizi premiere
ON SCREEN NOW @ THE AV HOUSE
Ajabu Ajabu in dialogue with filmmakers