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This report is taken from PN Review 277, Volume 50 Number 5, May - June 2024.

Freedom Square Rod Mengham
There is a small, square badge that rests on a narrow shelf at the base of a wooden lectern in my room. I pick up and inspect this badge every time I use the lectern. The inspection is brief and unseeing, but the physical act of taking the square of metal and laying it in the palm of my hand is an important ritual. My fingers close around a talisman whose visual details I conjure up at will. A map of the country, or rather its silhouette, is superimposed on the national flag. At the centre of this empty vessel, this cartographic terra nullius, is the handwritten slogan of the people’s liberation movement and the printed name of the place of issue. The same design could be found from one end of the country to the other, but always with the local name taking pride of place, a synecdoche of the nation, the part accepting responsibility for the whole.

The design of the slogan, a careful replica of rapid, freehand mark-making, has the urgent, defiant, improvisatory abandon of a graffito. Its style as contagious as its message, it would appear everywhere without warning at the height of the rebellion, materializing suddenly when no one was looking, as if appearing from the interior of buildings themselves, emerging under force, under pressure from the deep interior of history, rewriting itself with different words. How often do we see these messages come and go – and how often do we misread them, forget them, or put them out of mind?

Long ago in this very town, the ...


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