With the departure of Migrant Journal comes the rise of another magazine looking at stories of migration, but from a very different perspective. Where Migrant casts it net wide for a plethora of global content drawing together a conceptual theme, Nansen takes shape by looking at the story of one person.
The idea is to home in on the minutiae of lives lived away from ‘home’, and as I read through the different features I’m reminded of the way that MacGuffin manages to create an entire magazine out of a single object and always comes up with interesting takes and tangents. Here, though, the subject of the magazine is entirely human: Kalaf Epalanga, a musician, author and social commentator. Hailing from Angola, Kalaf moved to Portugal as a teenager, and has recently settled in Berlin after years of touring with his band Buraka Som Sistema.
His journey and story is explored thoroughly from different angles, and it couldn’t make for a more compelling publication. The design has been tightened since the first issue too, giving it a more cutting-edge feel.
Opening with a long interview exploring his journey and work, much of the magazine takes shape through the eyes and suggestions of Kalaf. He writes about how fatherhood has shaped him, and introduces us to eight of people who have influenced him – who are then depicted in illustrations by Amanda Baeza (above).
It’s not all serious – things like mock school reports and adverts pop up inbetween the longer features, and although their design is not polished enough to quite hit the spot, it’s a nice touch and an attempt to vary the flow of the magazine.
Nansen also makes use of infographics and maps throughout, to visually demonstrate Kalaf’s individual journey, for example, or to make important points about migration in general. Here, a map showing the most common migration patterns of Africans show that they mostly end up in neighbouring countries: since 2018 the African Union has broken down the borders drawn up by European colonisers and made it possible for people to move more freely across the continent. The editors compare this to a map of European migration later in the magazine, and draw revealing conclusions about the way the West perceives migrants.
Elsewhere, other contributors enrich the African perspective on Portugal’s history, contemporary culture, and language. Naky Gaglo runs the ‘Africa Lisbon Tour’, and elucidates his audiences, and the magazine’s, in this informative piece about what he does.
The magazine is named after Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer who received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of displaced victims of the First World War, and created a stateless person passport to help undocumented migrants cross borders.
Nansen does not pull its punches in diving into the legacy of Portuguese colonialism, and it’s eye-opening about an African country I know little about. It also reserves some critique for those states which still govern colonies (of which the UK is a major player), and is highly critical of the specific ways that the language we use to describe people who move across the globe as either immigrants or expats is highly influenced by race and wealth. Nansen is quickly proving itself to be a powerful voice, and I can only imagine what stories and hard-hitting facts they are saving to decimate the UK’s perspective on colonialism in a future issue.
Publisher & editor: Vanessa Ellingham
Art director & designer: Eva Gonçalves
Buy a copy from the magCulture Shop