The Green Bean

Themba Lewis

In 1982 I was a diplomat’s kid in Kathmandu, Nepal. I lived in Kalimati, opposite Lincoln School and down from the Rana Palace that now housed the Nepal office of USAID, hundreds of murmuring pigeons, and the occasional predatory owl (and requisite rodent prey). I lived in Takura House, an awkwardly architectured concrete and brick block, painted yellow, with a flat roof perfect for kite-flying and housing our rabbits, Lopsy, the tough one, and Funnybunny, docile and lacking in personality, but easier to catch and pet. Continue reading “The Green Bean”

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Summer morning

Themba Lewis

Today I woke up in Maastricht, on the floor in Ayla’s living room, as she held a telephone meeting in her bedroom with a student she is trying to send to me as an intern. The walls were covered, but tastefully, with framed photographs, maps, and paintings. Some charted the direction of Mecca through longitudinal lines over unidentifiable landmasses. Others were bold coloured abstract paintings. Continue reading “Summer morning”

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Safety procedures

 

Safety Procedures
Themba Lewis

According to Xhosa and Zulu legend, a giant carnivorous sail-finned eel called the Inkanyamba controls the powers of the wind and sky. The Inkanyamba needs to be regarded with constant measures of respect and caution, for fear of its tendency towards massive destruction when angry. As children, Xhosa elders ‘were not even allowed to use the word inkanyamba, for the inkanyamba might hear its name and come’.[1] Through these Inkanyamba-controlled skies, Air Lesotho briefly navigated a tiny fleet. Continue reading “Safety procedures”

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The Green Grass of Home

Themba Lewis

Two years ago I was standing, exhausted, at 4am on a roadside in the wasteland of shuttered warehouse stores and box hotels just far enough from Charles de Gaulle airport as to require some form of transport. The busses did not run this early, and the hotel staff were asleep. I waited on the front landing in the cold early morning air. My heavy bags were at my side.

Continue reading “The Green Grass of Home”

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Terai

Themba Lewis

And by what destiny or virtue does one, at a certain age, make the important choice, and become “accomplice” or “rebel”? From what source do some people derive their spontaneous intolerance of injustice, even though the injustice affects only others? And that sudden feeling of guilt at sitting down to a well-laden table when others are having to go hungry? And that pride which makes poverty and prison preferable to contempt?

Ignazio Silone
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Even the dead don’t go back to Sudan

Themba Lewis

At 10am, the tenth-floor window offered a strange sense of calm. It was December 31st, 2005, and the sky was still clear, unclouded by dust and exhaust. The rooftops and minarets offered an unusually sleepy grace from this bird’s-eye vantage. It was as though the massive urbanity of Cairo was bracing for the new year at just the right pace.

On the inside of the glass there was a different story. Twenty-four hours earlier, 4,000 armored Egyptian riot police had brutally attacked and forcibly detained more than 2,000 Sudanese refugees at a protest sit-in at Mustapha Mahmoud Park, two officers on each refugee, just across the Nile. Many of the refugees had been beaten or trampled to death, almost half of the dead were children under the age of twelve. Continue reading “Even the dead don’t go back to Sudan”

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Is It Me You’re Looking For?

Themba Lewis

04 February 2011

The Aqaba port at the northern tip of the Red Sea inlet has existed in some form or another for over 6,000 years – through the ancient kingdoms, the trading missions to Punt, the wandering and exodus of the Jews, and the manufacture of political states. It existed 1,400 years before the last of the Siberian wooly mammoths died, and thousands of years before the rise (and fall) of Ancient Greece. Now the tiny port city is squeezed tightly between Israeli access to the water at Eilat to the Northwest, the expansive Saudi Arabian coastline to the south, and the dark desert of Egypt across the water to the West. Continue reading “Is It Me You’re Looking For?”

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Bagmati बागमती नदी

Themba Lewis

I saw my first dead body on the Bagmati. It seemed clean, wrapped and tied in cream-colored sheeting. It was burning white hot in high flames, excreting human smoke up and across the valley in thin clouds. I thought of tiny particles of dead human flesh floating, light as ash, and settling on the streets and houses. In my lungs. I thought of boiling blood. Continue reading “Bagmati बागमती नदी”

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