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MAMBA (article first published : 1999-05-31)

“Marginal kulture with a lethal byte” reads the adblurb for the first Mamba magazine. A highly impressive publication, its `bite’ is indeed powerful and stimulating.

Identifying their mentors as Dambudzo Marechera and Breyten Breytenbach, the producers of Mamba take the reader through the definition of the word – from “a snake and a dance” to a “symbol and an act of emancipation” that “demelaninises African identity”. It’s a “culture-zine with a lethal byte”, liberating the muse and growing “out of the compost of unanswered questions” as a “subliminal voice rising from the cemetery of minds” .

A “post-mortem of ideas not yet born, an autospy of tomorrow”, Mamba reflects the need “to express what if it were to remain unexpressed, would grow like a tumor inside until it explodes.”

The front cover asks “Are you sure you can deal with this?” and you do need to be prepared because what follows is a wealth of visual material. Editorial, gossip, snappy satire and cartoons tumble over each other, often couched in words I’ve never heard of and very few of which can be found in any of my three highly comprehensive dictionaries including the BBC English Dictionary (bet you didn’t know Auntie Beeb had her own language!)

Still, it all makes for a magazine that is so up-to-the-minute it sharpens the cutting edge to razor blade precision.

Contributors include Breyten Breytenbach, Richard Ellis, Fiona Kirkwood, Trevor Makhoba, Wild Beast (aka Joanne Bloch), James Beckett, Janus Duncan, Rick Andrew, Simon Lovejoy, Vivek Narayanan, Fred Khumalo, Alex van Essche, Aileen Withers, Claire Wylie, Claire Jones, Rob Heasley, Nikhil Singh, Lueen Conning, Mafika Gwala, Vusi Mchunu, Clinton Maruis, Liam Martin and Gisčle Turner, ND Mazin and Toine Scholtz. Providing some of the photography are Val Adamson, Rafs Mayet and Barry Downard.

The brains behind Mamba are publisher/editor Andy Mason, project co-ordinator Mthandeni Ziqubu and graphic designers Trueman Myaka, Davide Pascalo and Sipho Fakudze.

While Mamba is an explosion of words and images, its design is clear and clean, allowing for `breathing’ spaces of pure text every now and then. Both Mthandeni and Trueman, whose work is also featured in Mamba, believe in allowing the text to `come through.’ “My feeling is that the moment a story becomes worth reading it’s because the design appeals and motivates you to read it. Design makes the written word readable,” says Trueman. .”I think what most copywriters do today is that they tend to suffocate the written word. You shouldn’t let your design jumble what you do in terms of the text or the design just for the sake of trying to push the electronic media.”

Mthandeni adds: “It’s a style promoted all over the world – in accordance with the theory of cutting edge. It makes you, as a reader, much more enthusiastic in terms of getting your mind on it. I also believe in the cutting edge but it mustn’t fight the words you are using. You should be careful that you don’t restrict the words because of your design. Within chaos there must be order.”

Mamba took eight months to produce and, unfortunately, fans can’t expect another edition out soon. “We hope that sooner or later there will be another Mamba,” says Mthandeni. “It’s a question of money.” Artworks sponsors the publication and there is only advertising on a limited basis.“

Mamba offers something to people from all different artistic backgrounds, from literature and visual art to fashion and music, both mainstream and out-of-the-ordinary. It’s the kind of collector’s item that you can pick up and read whenever you get the mood.

On good quality paper with a strong springback binding, Mamba is available at Exclusive Books, Artmates and Adams at R34.20.Or else you can buy one direct from Artworks at 30 Steel Road in Morningside. For more details, ring Artworks on (031) 303-6466 or fax (031) 303-4493. E-mail: mamba@hotmail.com or artworks@iafrica.com The website address is http://www.artworkspublishing/mamba.co.za


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