Second Open Letter to the Board of Trustees of Black Umbrella/Third Text from ASAI/Third Text Africa

Mario Pissarra & Lize van Robbroeck, 10 August 2012

As a matter of public interest and record

We acknowledge receipt of your response of 19 July to our open letter of 2 July 2012, and that it was marked ‘in confidence’, and that you have since distributed the letter more widely, although you have not yet made any public statement.

We trust that the counter allegations levelled at Rasheed Araeen are being communicated directly so that he can respond to them himself.

We note that the recent resignation of the majority of Editorial Board members supports the view that nothing less than a major regime change is underway at Third Text. We are inclined to interpret this as less a matter of personalities than a conflict of values, and that the collective editorial ethos initiated and nurtured by Rasheed Araeen is what is being undermined. This raises the question whether peer review continues to inform the editorial practice of Third Text.

We further note nothing in your letter that refutes the allegation that the radical vision of Black Umbrella is being compromised (indeed, some of the contents of the last edition of Third Text would indicate that this fear is well founded).

More disturbingly, we note that your letter makes no reference to Rasheed’s recent disclosure that you have instituted legal action to invalidate his claims of intellectual property rights for Third Text.

If you have indeed taken this legal route, then it would appear to us that you were communicating to us in bad faith – implying that we were being taken into confidence whilst failing to disclose the true course of your actions.

This leaves us to surmise that Black Umbrella has embarked on a strategy to secure full control of Third Text. It appears that you are prioritising financial interests by complying with directives from funders (including rethinking the role of the editorial board and advisory council), legal routes are being pursued despite the questionable morality of this, and public relations are being addressed through letters marked confidential.

We have invested considerable energy in Third Text Africa and have drawn 24 people from 18 countries into our editorial network (you may note that our structures are modelled on the original Third Text, with no Executive Editor). As we stated in our original editorial and restated in our open letter, we identify strongly with the spirit of the original Third Text, a publication that spoke truth to power, challenged dominant ideologies and institutions, and produced new knowledge through radical scholarship. That is the Third Text that we consider ourselves to be partnered with, and with which we are committed to furthering discourses that can counter the powers of corporate globalisation and nationalist ideology.

We note that your letter concludes by stating “You and others might now decide the time has come to move on and to show goodwill towards the
magazine. Third Text is part of your history, as it is part of ours and of many others.”

ASAI has prioritised Third Text Africa as a project, before this dispute arose, and remains committed to it. Yes,Third Text is part of our history, and it is a history we have no reason to abandon. We are committed to the ideals and critical ethos of the Third Text that was founded by Rasheed Araeen, and will endeavour to live up to the standard developed under his direction and leadership.

Yours sincerely,

Mario Pissarra (managing director, ASAI,/ managing editor, Third Text Africa) and Lize van Robbroeck (editor in chief, Third Text Africa)

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