Mezosfera’s fifth thematic issue is published in conjunction with the Budapest presentation of the three-channel film Two Meetings and a Funeral (dir. Naeem Mohaiemen, Bangladesh, 2017) at tranztit.hu. This special issue is, at the same time, a continuation of Mezosfera’s previous edition entitled Propositions for a Pan-Peripheral Network, a beginning of tranzit.hu’s research into the transnational history of Hungary and Eastern Europe in the Cold War era.
How was Hungary connected to post-WWII decolonization? What does this episode of Eastern European history tell us about shared postcolonialities, transnational interconnectivity, and semiperipheral positioning strategies? This study aims to address these questions in the context of socialist Hungary’s evolving relations with independent Ghana under the Kwame Nkrumah regime (1957–1966), by focusing on the role of Hungarian experts in a transnational context. My aim is to show how this encounter led to the professionalization and internationalization of Hungarian postcolonial knowledge production, and how parallels in colonial history were drawn between Hungary and Africa.
This essay attempts to assess socialist Hungary’s state-directed solidarity with the Arab World through publications that appeared between 1957 and 1989. Considering Hungarian publications about the Arab World as products of the idea of “socialist solidarity” or “international socialist friendship” (1956–1989), the essay analyzes why certain books appeared at specific times. Underlining the complexities and paradoxes of Hungary’s solidarity gestures with Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the essay investigates the juncture points of Hungary’s globalist commitments, in relation to ideological purposes, diplomatic ties, and economic interests.
At this moment of history, biennials seem to be a necessary evil. They have been challenged, contested, transformed, and critiqued. In retrospect, the Arab Biennial as a project has been overclouded by its politics and seen as a failure. Nevertheless, the genealogy of the biennial has its roots in a historical necessity that started through an artists’ initiative. The formation of the General Union of Arab Plastic Artists (al-Ittihad al-'amm li-l-fannanin at-tashkiliyin al-'arab) in 1971, registered Arab artists’ position and strong need for a shared forum and unity. The awareness of their fragmented existence within what has been argued throughout most of the twentieth century as a transnational collective strength in the form of pan-Arabism, was manifest in their need for better representation.
The moment has stayed with every person who witnessed it. Free Jazz pioneer Archie Shepp improvising live on the street, surrounded by hundreds of onlookers in a trance to his otherworldly beats. The place: Algiers. The occasion: PANAF, the First Pan-African Cultural Festival, organized in 1969 by the Algerian government. Tens of thousands of people attended, hailing from across the African world, continental and diasporic alike. Théo Robichet, a Guevarist filmmaker from Paris, recorded the scene.2 In his viewfinder, Shepp appears in a shirt made of printed cloth bearing the logo of another festival, held three years earlier in Dakar: the First World Festival of Negro Arts (FESMAN).
Beyond the overall realm of socialist internationalism, there were several specific contexts in Cold War Hungary that not only shaped relations on the individual’s level towards independence struggles in the Third World, but also played a role in the still today incomplete liberation of these regions. Hungary's diplomatic-ideological relations in the Middle East reveals that friendship and solidarity is much more nuanced on a personal level than to be simply controlled through ideological means.
One of the most pertinent questions posited in Naeem Mohaiemen’s 2017 work Two Meetings and a Funeral is that of looking back to a world past: how to transmit the knowledge and memory of a world non-aligned? At a time when these questions are ever more pressing, Mohaiemen’s film is an important reminder of the complexities and layered nature of the past: when facing the divided world of the twentieth century, it is of utmost importance not to default the Cold War conditions to a dialectic between the East and the West, for there was a whole, third world just south of them, likewise entangled in these power relations.