Asher Gamdze & Koni Benson: “the relationships we built […] continue to be central to the work we are both doing”
South African historians Asher Gamedze and Koni Benson received ANT Mobility support in 2016 for a research trip titled ‘The Urgency of African History: History Education as Creative Practice’ to explore conversations and build networks with historians, artists, educators, and activists in Botswana and Namibia. This initial trip laid the foundation from which several subsequent projects and collaborations have emerged. In their work together, Asher and Koni are interested in pan-Africanist conversations that rearrange the dynamics of conversations and imaginations of how struggles in the past took place and the power dynamics of borders in Africa today.
We received an ANT Mobility Grant in 2016 to build relationships with activists and artists in Southern Africa with the view to working more closely together in the region. The grant enabled us to travel to Windhoek and Gaborone. Since then we have continued to work with a number of the people we met on that trip. We have worked closely with Nashilonghweshipwe Mushaandja, who we met on our initial trip, on a number of projects: researching and writing Otillie Abrahams’ history which we presented in a number of interactive workshops at a cultural festival and a high school in 2018 as well as an ongoing research project on a history of the Namibian Review, a radical publication associated with the Namibian liberation struggle.
In 2017 we helped to organize a trip for youth activists from South Africa, and Botswana; we were able to include youth in Botswana through some connections we made with people working in the heritage space on our 2016 trip. One of the destinations on our 2016 trip was Windhoek, here we drew on the relationships established through the grant to develop a program for the youth.
The relationships we built through the work that was enabled by the grant have continued to be central to the work we are both doing more broadly. In 2019 we brought this work to an arts festival in Namibia, Owela. And in 2020 we contributed some of this work to an exhibition on a world without walls.
In collaboration with some other people working in the academy, Koni organises a project called “Revolutionary Papers” into which the work on the Namibian Review, our collaborative work with Mushaandja, feeds. Asher is currently doing a PhD on the history of a political tendency that developed some relationships of solidarity between comrades working in Namibia and in South Africa; this research process has built on and extended relationships built through ANT’s funding. The work continues.