Sub Saharan Africa

Remembering Nelson Mandela

Madiba

Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid icon and former South African president, died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. I was fortunate to be in South Africa at the time, and to be a part of the combination of mourning for Mandela’s death and celebration of his life that took place in the weeks following. On five occasions during this period, I joined the crowd of South Africans (and foreigners) gathered outside the Mandela home in Houghton to pay their respects to a man revered, it is fair to say, by almost all South Africans. In these short videos, I pay tribute as a South African to Madiba, and I try to capture some of the remarkable sights and...

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Nineteen years later: Rwanda 2013

Victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide (KIgali Genocide Memorial.)

In March 2013, I spent several days in the small central African country of Rwanda. It is a beautiful place of verdant hills, picturesque villages, and majestic volcanic mountains. Thanks to its high elevation it has a balmy climate despite its tropical location; much of the country lies more than 1,800 meters above sea level. Rwanda is also the cleanest African country (or, for that matter, any country) I have visited; there is virtually no litter on the streets of the capital city of Kigali, and rural fences are remarkably free of the remnants of the plastic shopping bags so common in most other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.) During the first day of my all-too-brief visit, I walked along the streets of Kigali, the...

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A Rwandan journey (video)

Along the road from Kigali to Ruhengeri

Along the road from Kigali to Ruhengeri   On the last day of my March 2013 visit to Rwanda I traveled from the capital city of Kigali, in the center of the country, through the hills to the town of Gisenyi in the Great African Rift Valley. It rained (no, make that poured) for part of the day, and a problem with the car meant that the journey back to Kigali was largely in the dark. Not ideal circumstances for taking photographs, but I managed to get enough footage to make a short, six-minute video giving some idea of the people and landscapes part Rwanda (I also took a lot of still photographs, posted here.)  

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A Tale of Two Cemeteries: Part One

A Tale of Two Cemeteries: Part One

In August 2011, I led a small group of American students on a study abroad program in South Africa. At the beginning of our trip we visited the Irene Concentration Camp Cemetery and Memorial near Pretoria, home to the remains of more than a thousand Afrikaners who died in a British internment camp during the Anglo Boer War. At the end of our tour, we spent some time at the Prestwich Memorial, a brand new repository of the recently discovered remains of over 2,000 people, most of them members of the Cape’s underclass, dispossessed and disempowered during two and a half centuries of colonial rule. The stories of the South Africans interred at Irene and Prestwich reveal a lot about the country’s history, from...

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Strangers in a strange land

Maurice and David, August 2011/

Maurice is round-faced, bespectacled, and jovial 27-year-old who works as a chef in a guesthouse in suburban Johannesburg. Since the guesthouse serves only breakfast, his working day here lasts only three hours. But his commute is long; he lives in Roodepoort, a town about 25 km west of Johannesburg, about a half hour drive away.  But Maurice doesn’t have a car; like most South Africans, he relies on minibus taxis to get around. These taxis ply fixed routes, and there is no service directly from Roodepoort to Bryanston. So Maurice gets up each day at 4 am to begin a circuitous journey to work that involves four taxi rides, is 40 km long, takes about 90 minutes, and costs R42 (about $6) a day....

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Little England on the Veld

Little England on the Veld

Part Two of a series of three blogs entitled ‘Mobility, migration, multiculturalism, the monarchy, and me.’ Part One: My maternal family’s history in England and Wales, and their migration to South Africa. Part Two: The very English lives my emigrant ancestors created and I inherited. Part Three: My observations, from amongst the London crowd, of the 2011 Royal Wedding, and my thoughts on the role of the monarchy in a multicultural, 21st century Britain. _________ It was December 1976, I had just finished my first year of university in Johannesburg, and I was traveling outside of Southern Africa for the first time. For someone like me, it was almost a foregone conclusion that my first foreign journey should be to England. After all, both...

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