For I have given a tongue to every link in my chain. speaking 526400 square milimetres of freedom

seven fragments by ZIZ, the cicada of archives, and INK, a socialist alchemy in yellowing pages, with Fehras Publishing Practices’ collection of the literary quarterly magazine LOTUS: Afro-Asian Writings (1968-1993) published by the Permanent Bureau of the Afro-Asian Writers Association
speaking from first Lotus
Faiz A. Faiz, Gabriel Okara
in LOTUS 1-1968

[ziz and ink read out loud together]

For I have given a tongue to every link in my chain.

Faiz A. Faiz

and the elders in their insides turned the spoken words over and over, and looked to see the road to take to pass over this inside smelling thing.

from Gabriel Okara: Okolo or The Voice

Know that you are a witch be. You cannot thus speak to us in the old times.

from Gabriel Okara: Okolo or The Voice

LOTUS: Afro-Asian Writings, issue no. 1, 1968

i am ziz,
my heart inhabited the archives,
i am the cicada of the archives,
i listen to fairies,
and fly,
like a buraq,
i fly,
from the river to the sea,
purple harvests of timeless time,
bunches of Lotus,
poetry, songs and dances,
covers, letters and aromas,
spread into coming greeny fields

i am a socialist alchemy in yellowing pages
i am the ink in no: 59-1988 lotus
printed in the GDR, i will not yet tell you where
or how i was made
black like the coal dust from Schwarze Pumpe
entering every pore of life in my grandmother’s
i reach into the paper, through the paper into your hands
your eyes that walk my shapes, into your nose and
all the tongues who speak and lick images and words
i am a material way of transforming language and visions
into signs and smells
so they travel

hungry eyes, or, the ungendered fighter
author/s to be found
in LOTUS 26-1975︎︎︎

ink: This is the first of our seven fragments. It’s about fighters without gender or “hungry eyes” in Lotus: Afro-Asian Writings, issue no. 26.

ziz: I picked it up from a deep intuition. I remember two friends from Nhà Sàn Collective visited Fehras’s library at the beginning of this year. They were searching for queer contents in the archive that we are collecting. And, the Lotus[1]was spread all over the place. They came close to the collection and they talked about this issue. Last time I was in our atelier thinking about our contribution for Archives of Gestures this issue sparkled. A special one as it was celebrating thirty years of Vietnamese revolution. It was published in 1975 in Cairo. This issue entered the Fehras library last November 2023. Finding Lotus began in 2018. This copy we received from a loyal archives collector who works in Alexandria. Lotus caught his eyes for the first time because it reminded him of his fiance who has the same name. Interestingly in this issue no. 26, there are some of the pages cut. This is how we received it. The cut of these pages is connecting different poems to each other.

ink: Sometimes the gaps are dense with connections. We see what is missing but can only imagine it, not yet know it. Instead we can read between the pages without having to follow the linearity of the page flow.

ziz: Important to say that this issue is a special release because it is not only dedicated to the Vietnamese revolution but also reviving memories of Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement from Bandung Conference in 1955 through its different trajectories, meetings, conferences and activities. So poem page no. 36 is connected with the poem on page no. 38 and poem on page no. 40.

ink: Who wrote this poem? And the ones on the following pages? Are the names cut out?

ziz: The names of poets are mentioned in the table of content of the issue except the names of the poets and the titles of their poems on these cut pages. They appear suddenly through the studies section of the magazine between two articles. One about the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet and the other one about Indian writer Sajjad Zaheer.

ziz: This is the poem about the ungendered fighter.
[Reads and translates spontaneously]

They are not men
They are not women
They are not girls and boys
But they are crooked trees
They are not men
They are not women
They are not girls or boys,
But mobile lumps of clay
From fertile soil

ink: And the poem title says fighters without gender, or how does it translate?

ziz: No. This is my interpretation. The title translates to “hungry eyes”. We will be receiving the English edition of this issue very soon so we hopefully know the names of the authors and the missed words in the titles of the poems. Who knows? Maybe Nazim Hikmat wrote this poem in solidarity with the Vietnamese revolution!

ink: I like the poem because through humans being nature they are liberated from the binary gender regime it seems. The poem reminds me of a film by Marwa Arsanios “Who Was Afraid of Ideology” where she goes to speak with different fighters of the Kurdish women's resistance. They talk about how the trees, the mountains, the stones, the animals, are their comrades in the fight, that they're also part of the resistance. The film once inspired a conversation with the healer, activist and midwife Ina Röder-Sissoko where she talked about how to be connected with and in nature is a form of resistance, as a form of fighting. It was published with Marwa’s film in D’EST[2].

ziz: You know ink, the non-binary system is embedded in one way or another in Lotus magazine as a print-body. There is no front cover and back cover in the traditional sense as it was published in three languages separately and always had its title in the three languages, the Arabic on one side and the English and the French on another side. So you have to hold the magazine between your hands and open it to know the language.

The Booby-Trapped Poem
Samih Al Kassem
in LOTUS no. 59-1988
[ink reads:]

You must keep going
Is the darkness thick?
Never mind,
Stretch out your hands carefully
Try to keep your heart alert
Stare with your fingers.

ink: “The Booby-Trapped Poem” by the Palestinian poet Samih Al Kassem was published in Lotus issue no. 59 in 1988. This issue was printed in the GDR, it could have been the last of the Lotus issues printed in the GDR. When the country disappeared, so did these printing arrangements that were part of state solidarity policies, I imagine. Samih Al Kassem associated his birth with the Nakba in 1948, he said: “While I was still in primary school, the Palestinian tragedy occurred. I regard that date as the date of my birth, because the first images I can remember are of the 1948 events. My thoughts and images spring from the number 48”. He was also a poet who refused to leave Palestine. The poem is very long. It goes from page no. 78 to page no. 89. Many many millimeters.

ziz: Samih Al Kassem was a poet from the Palestinians who stayed in their land and took a different path of resistance to those who were expelled from their homes. With them the literature of occupied Palestine was born and grew.

I saw your flesh turned into a bird

I tired of living without Life
And wearied of my silence
And of my voice,
Of stories and story-tellers,
Of crime and criminals,
Of courts and judges,

ink: This tiredness and weariness of language in relation to violence and genocide struck me, a poet saying this. The abstraction of violence, of humanness when states speak, and law. The other day this line by Jose Antonio Vargas reached me in an email from a friend

Apartheid was legal. The Holocaust was legal. Slavery was legal. Colonialism was legal. Legality is a question of power, not justice.

At the beginning of this week I was following the life transmissions from the International Court of Justice where Nicaragua is accusing Germany for the massive delivery of weapons to Israel after the 7th of October knowing that they are going to be employed in the genocide. Nicaragua is arguing that this is a breach in the Genocide Convention, which was ratified in 1948 - the same year as the Nakba. The second crime the German state is being accused of is that it is actively depriving Palestinians of humanitarian aid by defunding UNRWA. With South Africa suing Israel and Nicaragua suing Germany, they are holding them responsible for the colonial violence and imperialism they are enacting. The language and claims remind me of the political discourses that were at the basis for the Afro-Asian Writers Association. The same LOTUS that holds Samih Al Kassem’s poem also contains a report of the International Forum for Nuclear-Free World, for Survival of Humanity in Moscow in 1987[4] where writers, artists and cultural workers from different countries came together. Nicaragua was part of this and so was East Germany. Through the socialist solidarity politics, there existed a particular relationship between the two countries, as was the case with East Germany and Palestine. There was even a Palestinian embassy in East Berlin[5]
Are you speaking to me?
Your words are wonderful
But they are still going on with their wireless raids.

ziz: There is a German writer called Charlotte Wiedemann who wrote a book entitled “Understanding the Pain of Others”. She is advocating for the Nakba to be part of a German and global memory culture. Her work asks to address the political and ethical imbalance in which genocides and traumas are being recognized. She champions a well-conceived and pluralistic culture of memory. It is not about whether holocaust memory should shrink to make space for more colonial or other remembrance. It is about the imbalances. I think what South Africa and Nicaragua are doing against imperialist states in suing them for their crimes is similar: It is about registering a recognition.

Your crazy horse
is all naked, neighing in the plain
The haughty Daffodil
Was spellbound by your magic,

It was said you fell beneath the green almond tree
It was said a bird by you was splashed with blood.
The sniper hid once more
Then he came back
I did not forget
It was two bullets hit you
And that shrapnel ripped the bandage of your hand
There is another version yet untold
There is a photograph of the actual events;
They killed the photographer
We know them
And we know the media game
We realize what the free world wants
Chained by its miserable legends
We understand the enemy from A to Z

ziz: When we read, we're moving from a passive role to an active one. We are not narrating, but we are acting and this is effective.

The laughter still hovers,
Like the seagulls over the gulf
And oil tankers are laughing.
Let me kiss your wound.
Oh, you beloved of God and man
And the morning light is disserting me
Like you deserted your dawn . . .
Two days
Two weeks
An entire month
Two years
A century
Are you tired?
Come my boy
I have readied my chest
So you can lay on it your dead young body
Come my child,
Let me place my decapitated head
Between your hands
That I may rest from my slow death
At the fringe of the alphabet

ziz: We have in our gathering today Lotus issue no. 26 dedicated to Vietnam and the struggle for freedom and liberation. Here you are reading a poem where time overlaps uniting our pains.

I will come back, yesterday
I will return yesterday from my travels
And rain will go back into the clouds
And you will return to me yesterday
You will return in a casket carried over shoulders
And you will come back
A song, an ear of wheat, a throne
And you will come back

ziz: It is also powerful to stop here on the right of return.

ink: It’s like time travel. Death is not the end, or maybe only the end of linear time. The time of murdering does not make the future even if it leaves everything changed, broken. I like the part where it says

I must go on
My darkness is thick
You must keep going
Your darkness is thick
The Sun goes from West to East
And the roots of my soul have spread out in space
And in the depths of oil wells

Has the planet started to move the other way around? Everything changes with trauma and the brokenness that comes with too much violence. Time and geography change.

My distress is a flower
And my mouth is a stone

My hand is on my back
My leg is in my mouth

Never mind
My heart is all over the streets
A child without parents
Storms hurling him into storms
It happens that even steel faints
And the snake sheds its skin

Never mind
I have an eyeball in my palm
And a nose in my lungs
And I have a sun without light or fire
And I have horizons overlooking a conscience
Behind them horizons looking over conscience
And behind them horizons looking over . . .
And no conscience

hands opening upwards
author/s to be found
in LOTUS no. 26-1975

ziz: I'm touching, you know, the magazine. I'm using my hands. Here. Yeah. The two hands. They are connected, but they have something free, upwards moving, embracing the air. They are talking about machines and planets in the poem and time. I see waves here.

ink: They could also be clouds. Or planets. Does this refer to the space race? Maybe a non-aligned kind of reclaiming of the cosmos?

ziz: Reclaiming the cosmos and bringing back the power to the labor. Time is in our hands. We as workers are soiled. We build. We create. We heal the wounds of time.

millimeters of freedom
Christoph Hein
Declaration of Intent of 58 workers of the cokery VEB BV Lauchhammer;
10 January 1990

ink [reads out loud]:

Freedom can only be won in a battle, a revolution or reformation. But the loss of freedom is never sudden. It never ends unexpectedly or in an instant. Freedom dies by the millimetre. And each one of us is responsible for at least one such millimetre.

These lines by the East German writer Christoph Hein were used by the workers of the cokery VEB BV Lauchhammer in January 1990 in their manifesto of political demands in relation to the end of the GDR and the unification of the two German states. Elske has made them part of the script for SPEAKING, which we are extending now. I think it is interesting to think about the death of these millimeters of freedom. In the times we are living it feels more like freedom is dying by the length of kilometers. But how do we measure this? What is the role of literature and art in defending these millimeters? Lotus was built on the socialist idea that writers and artists had a political task in contributing to building new social imaginaries against and after colonialism and imperialism.

The workers of Lauchhammer seem to use literature to give an image to what they were fighting for. They demanded a solution in which there wasn't a West German takeover, but a shared political process that would acknowledge and integrate the political imaginations, the political and economic structures and cultures from both sides. What’s telling and strange is that their first demand is a Germany united by a shared border around it, and not anymore through it. What imagination is that, that begins with a border? At the same time the workers are clearly opposing the racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and neo-Nazism that they are witnessing. I wonder if workers from Mozambique who were part of the Lauchhammer workforce and whose contracts were the first to be canceled were part of this organising around the shared political demands.

ziz: To link to the quote by Hein, I believe that “reformation” is a daily practice, whenever there is an interaction, intellectual, or emotional thing happening. It is about filling gaps of fears or arrogance and rewriting histories in the present. Fehras’ Hader Halal series was born from the spirit of Lotus’s archives and is seen in a way like a “hirak” (a movement) where we are trying to speak up our needs and address our traumas as migrants equally considering this a natural path to achieving justice. The labor behind producing culture and the labor behind the archives become essential in this transformative moment.

There was also a very concrete moment at the start of Hader Halal in a lecture performance in the context so-called Corrections[6] seminar series at Vera List Centre in New York. I had a critique for the using of the term “correction”. Coming from Syria, the term correction is associated with the Baath Party who were instrumentalizing it to say that we have to accept everything in the name of “correction”. So what is reformation? Something goes between inside and outside like repairing history and repositioning, i mean creating rearrangements against eurocentrism, by repossessing of archives and making them accessible.

ink: So we would maybe add to the quote that freedom can be won in history repair and repositioning as practices of decolonization? I was wondering about what quote the workers would have used if they had had access to the LOTUS magazines that for two decades were printed in the GDR but surely not available to people living there. Maybe they could have quoted the ungendered fighter in the Vietnam issue or Samih Al Kassem in saying “And I die of conviction / I die / Then again I die of suspicion! / We must keep going” But yeah, the death of freedom by the millimeter really spoke to me when I read it the first time. We are witnessing increasing oppression, fascism, violence since the 7th of October. Since the Hamas attacks on Israel and the beginning of the war and genocide in Gaza we are in a shift here in Berlin and in Germany that uses the antisemitism=antizionism equation to justify not only the continued colonial violence in Gaza and Germany’s involvement in it, but the oppression of people from the Palestinian, Muslim and Arabic communities, BIPoC people, migrants and refugees here in Germany. It also created a new landscape of white silence and silencing on top of the one, or deeping the one that already existed.

ziz: The censorship is also creating paranoia and mistrust between people based on the fear that is already now in the air. It is splitting people as well as it is bringing old ties or forgotten groups bound together again.

ink: I like the metaphor of the millimeter because sometimes one can feel so small and useless in front of all the violence that feels so overwhelming. To put emphasis on the minor holds a horizon of possibility, like there's a millimeter, there's always a little piece of life and humanness that we can defend, there’s a space of freedom we can translate into existence.

ziz: Awakening publishing archives such as Lotus magazine and the Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement are becoming a trigger to gather people. I’m breathing through the archives and am trying to create safe moments around it.

ink: And creating moments of speaking freely and fearlessly.

ziz: Publishing archives are not just a shelter but also are lively in contact with us. Like the gathering we made last December and the workshop to interact with Lotus’s legacy.

ziz dancing with the kufiyyeh
at D’EST Hader Halal Sessions 2023

[ink and ziz watch the video]

ziz: This. Is this? Oh, wow. It's just me.

ink: So beautiful you are.

ziz: D’EST [7] in Flutgraben in December, and the Hader Halal Sessions as part of it, was an amazing moment to close the year. There's electrons or something in this movement.

ink: Your dance for me was defending quite a few millimeters of freedom, bending them, stretching them into space. Fehras and D’EST had invited a group of writers and artists to make a response to the materials from and in relation to Palestine in the Lotus archive. Flutgraben is in East Berlin where maybe some of the issues had been printed. So again there's all these overlaps between the different presents and interconnected South - East - East - South geographies - the historical present of the Lotus issues and the coloniality of that time that the African Writers Association was built to work against and the present of us last year coming together in and against the coloniality of our time. Do you remember dancing then? How did it feel in your body?

ziz: I walk there every day. Fehras Publishing Practices work there since 2015, and Lotus among our other collections of cultural journals and archival books are homed in Flutgraben e.V. [8] You know, we can write a text and we can invite people and we think we understand what will be happening. But when things happen, reality takes us somewhere else. So was this with you and all the other friends who came, participated, visited, read a poem in the workshop or made zines at the print station machine. I felt something dynamic, something very alive, vibrant and I felt also very empowered. Things came together very naturally. And this created joy and safety. And I know that we are all sad. We were sad and dancing. Dancing and celebrating this anti-colonial archive.

ink: I remember when we were preparing for it there were days where we would meet and flirt and some friends had just been arrested at the demonstrations. The police presence in our neighborhood in Neukölln and at the demos was and is so, so brutal. I feel that these spaces are interconnected, the spaces in the streets, the spaces in which we are speaking, the spaces in which we are dancing, the spaces in which we survive and hold each other in being confused, angry and heartbroken about what is going on. And all this filters into how the space was created by all of us, the particular light, the plants, the textures of printing and publications, the cooking and being together. [9] It was like an utopian LOTUS moment in the present and also an Archive of Gestures, the way Elske is assembling it. Much of it is really hard to articulate in words and that’s why our dancing together and your moment of the solo with the kufiyyeh for me expresses a lot of millimeters of resistance, healing, freedom, grief. The way they create another language in the body.

ziz: I also wanted to affect people in this moment. I know there was respect. There were many people in the room and I also played other songs by Palestinian artists. You came close for example, but many didn’t, which I completely understand. But I wanted to say that even with all of the complex and conflictual things that were happening, this was part of crafting trans-spatial spaces, of crafting global histories, and bringing the imaginary into reality. People will always find a way to resist oppression and unsettle borders, like the river will to the sea.

seven non-binary spirits
Lotus: Afro-Asian Writings, issue no. 26, 1975.
Fehras Publishing Practices Collection, 2023.
in LOTUS 26-1975

ink: I really love this connection of the mouth and the ear. There's this bird coming out of one arm. Tell me about this picture.

ziz: The feminist queer perspective, the migrant. The horizontal, the vertical battle. The way how we look at this. You told me at the beginning of our work today that we are speaking as unideological communism. What we see is also a communal movement or action or taking and giving. Seven spirits are playing with compassion and exchanging flowers and fruits to express their friendship. We started with the moon and ungendered bodies from this Lotus issue. And now we have these seven non-binary souls.
Ziz and Ink, two fluid creatures, were invited by Suza Husse of D’EST and Sami Rustom of Fehras Publishing Practices to come together and speak free and fearlessly in a time of sadness and hope. In search of anchorages, they crossed into worlds of poetry, resistance and love. They roamed cities of clouds and encountered new planets around the old sun.

Fehras Publishing Practices are a multidisciplinary artist collective focusing on the interrelations between archives, art, body, light and crafting cultural global histories. Fehras practices Moasherat, an Arabic term which translates to “cohabitations”. Moasherat is the coming together between Fehras (Sami Rustom and Kenan Darwich) and artists Nancy Naser Al Deen and Sama Ahmadi in 2024.Their co-work aims to detect a wide range of cultural and geographical landscapes in order to explore historical representations, the notion of the past in the present, and translation/interpretation as a tool of facing old and new colonial powers.

D’EST is a nomadic platform and online archive for video art, experimental and documentary film that maps artistic forms of historiography at the intersection of postsocialist, queer-feminist and decolonial narratives and imaginaries. It was founded by Ulrike Gerhardt and Suza Husse in 2016 and is run by the art space and community center District*School Without Center. With the collectives Fehras Publishing Practices, krёlex zentre and Nha Sàn Collective. D’EST began the new cycle Post-socialism as Method. Anti-Geographies of Collective Desires in 2023.

[1] To read more about Fehras’ finding journey of Lotus and the trajectories of the magazine:

[2] D’EST: Signals From Roots To Leaves: A post-botanical assembly
The Language of Plants https: //

[3] Jose Antonio Vargas in Emila Roig, Why We Matter, Aufbau-Verlag 2021. The discussion took place in the exhibition of Anike Joyce Sadiq and Thomas Locher at After The Butcher, Berlin.

[4] Lotus: Afro-Asian Writings, no. 59, 1988. Produced in the GDR by the Solidarity Committee of GDR by appointment of the Afro-Asian Writers Association.

[5]  The GDR acknowledged the sovereignty of Palestine as a state. The seat of the PLO acted as the embassy of Palestine in East Berlin for YEARS.

[6] To watch the lecture performance:

[7] D'EST Postsocialism as Method. Antigeographies of Collective Desires / Hader Halal Sessions.

[8] Flutgraben, a non-profit, self-organized art association in Berlin-Treptow. The association emerges from a polyphonic community of artists, groups and initiatives who contribute programmatically and organizationally in changing constellations.

[9] Note on the Hader Halal Sessions with Fehras Publishing Practices, krёlex zentre, Nhà Sàn Collective, AK Knol, Aziza Ahmad, Aziza Kadyri, Dilda Ramazan, Farkhondeh Shahroudi, Iskandar Ahmad Abdalla, Kim Bode/N*A*I*L*S*hacks facts fictions, krëlex zentre, Jules de Bog, Nancy Naser Al Deen, Nino Bulling, Quynh Dong, Shaunak Mahbubani, Sama Ahmadi, Suza Husse, Vu T. Thu Ha.