The open sea was great enough under what the Greeks would have termed the ‘dome of heaven’ but which to me seemed more like the roofing of a giant marquee. The ocean itself had a curve to it as it tipped below the encircling horizon. Then we turned into the broad mouth of Kinabatangan, the glaucous sea became muddy brown and opaque. The riverbanks were dense impenetrable mangrove palm on one side and more open green bushes but still mangrove with gracile trunks and more tender branches on the other side. This pattern alternated every so often palm on one side and trees on the other side.
Etosha means “Great White Place of Dry Water”. We were sitting waiting for dinner and looking out at the green plains of Etosha. Our first morning we had driven through the Park and it was lush and green. The grass, at least at the south end, was fresh and shone like an emerald in the sun. Kudu grass bordered the plain and then spread through the park with their white flowers in bloom. As ever, Mopani trees were lush and in this landscape blended in since their leaves were always fresh and vigorous. There were also the occasional Moringa; these strange trees have silver-white stems and branches and the few leaves are held upright at the tips of the branches. I couldn’t miss the acacia, both the sweet thorn acacia with long white spikes and the camel’s thorn.
But we were not at Etosha for the vegetation. We were here to sight animals. And, we did see springboks, oryxes, impala, kudus, zebras, giraffes, and lions. There were enough springboks to fill the whole earth. After a while, one lost interest but they were such beautiful beasts, and the young bounce as if their heels were built of springs hence springboks, and they pranced like ballet dancers across the plain. The oryxes had a silky sable coat and their horns were marvelously straight with twists in them. These beasts traveled singly, never in herds.
We never saw any kudu close to but their shape was easily recognizable even at a distance. But the Impala with their reddish-brown coats, their sheer elegance, and slender limbs congregated at the waterhole where we spent one early afternoon studying what animals do about a watering hole.
The zebras at Etosha were larger than the mountain adapted zebras that we had been near Sossusvlei and their markings were more distinct and cleaner. They crossed the roads in single file and without hurry. The giraffes at Etosha were misplaced. I think they must have been introduced. Their long necks served no purpose in a terrain with few trees and none that had leaves high enough to require a giraffe’s neck. At the Serengeti it is always clear why giraffes are adapted they way they are, their elongated necks had survival value. Here at Etosha, the giraffe’s neck was merely an adornment even an impediment sadly.
It was the lion that was most impressive. We caught sight of two brothers standing about 50 yards apart. The one closest to us lay on its flank for a while and then stood up and walked away. Its swagger was of a self-possessed, utterly confident animal. The word ‘majestic’ can be overused but these animals are truly majestic. As it walked the breeze ruffled its mane and its deep eyes, thoughtful, rueful even, looked ahead.
Later we saw a group of 6 lions, a matriarchal group, sitting and wonderfully camouflaged behind low-lying fallen branches. The only sign of their presence was the edginess of a herd of zebras, standing absolutely still and looking in one direction as if any moment now danger might emerge from the bushes. And they were right, close by no more than 50 yards away, were the lions. The zebras must have caught their scent in the breeze but for their poor eyesight could not exactly see them. Well, that’s nature for you.
The birds were far too numerous to identify or indeed recognize. The most identifiable were the Kori bustard, then Greater Kestrel, Ruppell’s Khoran, White-tailed Shrike, Grey Go-Away bird, Blacksmith Lapwing and, Monteiro’s Hornbill. The sociable sparrow was hardly memorable except for its extraordinary nests that can be so large as to dominate the stems and branches of trees where they appear like gigantic scrotal sacs, misplaced and diseased.
Whilst we were at Tywelfontaine we visited the Damara Living Museum and watched a local song and dance, saw a fire lighting ritual and spoke to a female medicine woman. She talked about using the mountain camphor for treating coughs or as perfume, using the stinking bush for stomach pains, Marua dung for ear infections, and rock hyrax dung to treat amenorrhoea or as an abortifacient. Elephant dung she said was good as a poultice for swellings or as an inhalant for headaches and nosebleeds.
On our way to Etosha, we had stopped at a Himba village. This was remote and accessible only by poor roads and along a dried up river valley. This was a most disconcerting visit. The Himba are a sub-tribe of the Herero and had crossed the Kunene river from Angola and Botswana before German control of Namibia in the early years of the 20thcentury. When the Germans arrived and started the repression and persecution of the Herero, indeed including incarceration and murder, the Himba left their prized cattle and retreated back across the Kunene River to Angola. They were later recruited to join forces with the rest of the Herero in the fight against the Germans. They accepted this invitation from their cousins and returned to Namibia. This decision was to result in their utter destitution. Their farmlands and cattle had been totally lost and they became beggars, the origins of their tribe name, Himba meaning beggars.
Their rich farmlands like all Herero land had been seized by German farmers and after some iniquitous commission, they were offered this most useless and impossible to farm rocky outpost, a reservation in all but name. The journey into their territory traversed dried riverbeds, and the cattle (their most prized possession) that we saw were emaciated and some lay on the ground barely able to move. Horror of horrors!
The Himba are said to cling to their culture with the tenacity of a clam on rocks in a turbulent sea. The women that we met were dressed in goat leather skirts and wore no breast coverings. Their skin was rubbed in red ochre instead of washing; this is said to reduce the wastage of water that is strictly reserved for their cattle. Their hair is long but also plaited with artificial hair extensions and dressed in ochre. Their front teeth are knocked out at an early age to provide a wide gapped toothed smile. They wore perfumed smoke from myrrh burnt over a stove into their armpits and groin.
The children were all but naked and there was an epidemic of Tinea capitis, and Tinea Versicolor, ringworm in ordinary English. Practically all the children in the village had enlarged abdomens, sure sign of kwashiorkor (protein-calorie malnutrition). The men wore wrappers around their waists and walked about bare-chested. Their huts were adobe, built of mud, wattle, and screened with animal dung. Their few possessions were kept on hooks on the wall. Parents and all their children all lived in this single room hut.
Literacy was at a low level. The government sent a peripatetic schoolteacher, an unqualified teacher, herself Herero, to give some basic education. There was a young girl of 16 years, the only secondary school educated person in the village. She was dressed in a skirt and top. Her hair was braided in cornrows. She told me that she wanted to be a doctor. She had rejected the Himba way of life but still lived at home. Throughout our visit, she did not once smile. She looked strained and utterly uncomfortable and dejected. She was a tragic sight. I took her to one side and told her that I was a doctor, asked what subjects she was studying and encouraged her to keep her eyes fixed on her goal. She nodded, bent her head to look at the ground. The only animation in the poor girl was when she retorted sharply that she wanted nothing of the business of goatskin skirts and bare breasts and then she said with vigor if not vehemence that she wished to train as a doctor.
All in all, this was a disconcerting visit. Here were people living in poverty and destitution, relying on handouts, clinging to a way of life ill-fitting for the modern world, and prey to the vicissitudes of nature. They were trapped within the prison invented and gifted to them by the diabolical trick of the German colonialists.
We traveled on to Etosha. The land became richer, greener, lusher and one saw why the Germans used all the trickery and ruthlessness that the European incursion into Africa had occasioned. They massacred the Herero and Nama, the two peoples who had a prior claim to these fertile lands. The Germans used subterfuge to classify people into tribes, to allocate poor land to people and to label these lands as belonging to the tribes, and to keep the best, naturally, for themselves.
The persecution and repression were only worsened when the South African Afrikaans took over the administration of Namibia. Apartheid was intensified. At towns such as Outjo, African Namibians could not buy white bread to eat, they were restricted to brown bread! The control of the best available pastoral land remains in the hands of Germans and Afrikaans.
At Okahandia the Herero and Nama agreed to a ceasefire between themselves and formed a coalition against the Germans and inflicted significant defeat against the Germans that is still celebrated today as part of the resistance against the cruel and unforgivable rule of the Germans and then the Afrikaans in north-west Africa.
We returned to Windhoek on our way back home. This is where our trip started. We had arrived late at night and were picked up and taken to our guesthouse. The city was already fast asleep and our host had stayed up to check us in. She was a dumpy Afrikaans woman with a sour face and a barely perceptible grimace and look that was impossible to decipher. It was somewhere between wry and knowing, suggesting some distaste for having to look after a mixed couple. There was definitely an undercurrent that was difficult to place. At Swakopmund, an entirely different reaction, an over politeness and welcome to paper over surprise I suppose. The underlying attitude in Swakopmund was revealed in how our host said of the gardener, in response to J’s praise of the garden “It’s Thomas’ doing, he’s the one with green fingers”. You could say that this was an innocuous response until you perfected the art of listening to tone and innuendo- she talked of Thomas as if he was a specimen in his presence.
All this merely puts me in mind of the electrified fences and barbed wire barriers to protect the white settlers from the supposed avarice and instinct for burglary of the true natives. The irony is, of course, that the rapacious treatment of the land, the greed and cruelty had all been expressed, if not exercised by the settlers. If there was anyone to be feared we all know exactly who that was and it was not the African natives of the land. So much fear, an absence of any restitution or penance on the side of the European settlers makes it even more likely that retribution may indeed suddenly erupt like a volcano at some date in the future.
The San and Nama are ancient peoples who have survived the most demanding stress from a temperamental planet. They have adapted to the vagaries of climate, and are self-sufficient peoples with an ethos that recognizes the fragility of the planet. They understand geological time, measured in eons, not decades. I cannot imagine a world in which they will not outlive the settlers or the rest of us for that matter.
The European enlightenment, that most magnificent flowering of human thought, the growth and dominance of scientific attitude and liberal values, and the dominance of individualism and a narrow specification of autonomy, these 16thcentury ideals shows its obverse side here in Namibia. This is the rampant individualism of the oppressor, the lack of respect for others, the rape of resources without any due thought for the long term and most importantly a complete absence of self-knowledge, of humility and a lack of any sense of shame, guilt or the need for reparation given the harm caused to the planet and to other human beings in the Victorian period and 20thcentury, most especially here in Namibia.
Namibia is the country where the polarities of European culture were most exposed to scrutiny: the ideal and the ugly. Well, it was time for home.
Photos by Jan Oyebode
I haven’t told you about our trip to Damaraland. We started early, traveling along the coast road from Swakopmund with the ocean to our west. I imagined that if we simply continued going up north we would arrive in Lagos after 4000 miles. As it was, after stopping to look at a recent shipwreck we turned inland towards Hettie’s Bay.
The coast road was a sand road. Unbelievably, a sand road that was as smooth and secure as any paved way. Hettie’s Bay was originally a holiday, second home settlement at the seaside, for white farmers. When we drove through, it also had retirement homes. The center of town had shops, car repair garages, cafes, and petrol stations. We stocked up on provisions at the local Spar shop and filled up with fuel too.
Next stop was Uis, a tin mining town down on its luck. Tin mining had ended because of the poor market value of tin. A tin slagheap dominated the town, glistening and grey colored in the strong sunlight. There were several young men selling gemstones, rose quartz, lapis lazuli, malachite, etc. These were roughhewn, large pieces for as little as £ 6 equivalent. I was confident that they worth much more in the European market.
From here onwards we were back on gravel roads. It was remarkable that one could travel over 350 kilometers and pass no more than half a dozen cars. And people were as rare and rarer still were settlements. We passed cattle grazing on dry bleached fields, herds of goats with goat herders, horses, and donkeys. Suddenly we came upon a man pumping up his cart’s inflatable tires. The cart was being drawn by two donkeys. The cart had a most magnificent spring system to act as shock absorbers. The man calmly set about pumping without fuss and without a drop of sweat in the scorching heat.
The terrain was as we had come to accept it- sand, rock formations of various types, and majestic in the background for a significant distance was the Brandberg mountain, the highest elevation in Namibia. The colors of the sand were from bleached sand-colored to pristine-white, through golden yellow and then the pinkish red of oxidated iron. In some places the horizon was unenclosed and entirely free and unimpeded in a complete circle, emphasizing the sheer grandeur and limitless extent of Africa.
The sun was ferocious and was nearing its zenith as we moved closer to our destination. We stopped for a picnic lunch along the banks of the dried up Ara Huab, an ephemeral river. Here Acacias and Mopane trees predominated. The Mopane trees were evergreens and in this climate were surprising because the leaves were a fresh, delicate green that was more natural to Northern Europe in early Spring. Yet, here there had been no rain for 5 years. Their taproots went deeply into the water table. There was also euphorbia, an abundance of them. These extremely poisonous trees have a juice that can blind or seriously maim. The oryx grass had been replaced here by camel grass.
Flies were everywhere. Elephant dung, white hyrax fecal streaks and the small pellets of springbok feces were everywhere. Even though there was a breeze under our chosen tree, it had the heat of an oven and was not pleasing. Around us, there were piles of granite built into towers, into domes, into peaks or merely scattered casually as if left behind by our ancestors.
Our lodge, Mowani lodge, was so discreetly built into the hills that you could not readily see it. And at the back, the chalets opened unto the river valley below. We loved it straight away.
Later we went to the burnt mountain and church organ pipes sights. Burnt mountain is 130 million years old but it looked as if the fire that burnt and scorched it occurred no more than a few weeks ago. That’s how fresh and unexpected the signs of burning were. The church organ pipes were less surprising only because we had seen similar geological structures in Iceland. The structure here was hexagonal in shape and the color was the reddish brown of rust rather than the grey-blue in Iceland.
Our lodge had a sunset viewpoint. We went to join a few others to witness the sunset. The sun was in its final flush, set behind the escarpment in the distance. Before we knew it, the sunset had dropped behind the veil of the escarpment. This was Africa after all.
The next day, we went out to see the rock engravings made by San people, dated back to 6000 years ago. These etchings were at Twyfelfontein (unreliable fountain). Our guide, Desiree, told us once I asked her what her Damara name was, that she was Gangan, meaning “Thank you” and was called Gan for short. I told her that my sister was called Dupe, also meaning “Thank you”. She seemed to like that very much.
Gan was a woman of about 5’ 6”, well built in an athletic way, and her skin was a soft brown. Her teeth were even and white and rarely for Namibian women, she smiled and her eyes danced with interest and mirth when she smiled. She was very gentle in her manner and very knowledgeable. She had that gift of us Africans, a wonderful memory such that she seemed to rehearse facts as if read from a book- precisely and in a kind of trance.
These engravings were astonishing. I was taken by surprise to find that some of the artists signed their engravings with etchings of their feet, much as we sign with our thumbprint today. They took care to distinguish between black and white rhinoceroses- the former was represented simply in outline and the latter had the body scratched out. There was a lion with human hands for its paws and also human hands at the end of its tail. This motif was “lion man” and is thought to represent the local shaman.
There was an etching of an ostrich with its neck and head in four different positions- probably the world’s first attempt at movement in two-dimensional space. Most extraordinary was a map with markings for the watering holes, where particular animals were to be found and on a slab of stone. To think that here at Twyfelfontein, San people already had the idea of a map to represent the world. In addition, there were several symbols of the foot markings of different animals, probably a type of school to teach how to recognize foot markings and how to track animals. The circles representing rainfall and circles with hollows in the center representing watering holes in my view most eloquently expressed symbolic thought. What an achievement to write life on rocks.
It’s thought that the site was a ritual site where clan meetings were held and the tradition continued right through to the 1940s. The motifs changed and pastoral scenes became predominant as hunter-gatherer existence ended.
The mountain-adapted elephants were not far away from Twyfelfontein. There was no need to go searching for these most elusive animals. They were somewhere in the Ara Huab dried riverbed. We found a group of a dozen or so elephants. There two males and the rest were juveniles and females. There was a juvenile aged about 1 month or so, who was still being nursed. There was an older juvenile, probably a year or so who was also still suckling. Two young males were playing at fighting, practicing for later life. One of the huge males came to join the female-led group. It was obvious that he wasn’t wanted but he ignored this patent fact and pressed his horns over the breech of one of the females as if he was going to mount her. She was not in oestrus but neither was he in heat- he did not have any of the stigmata, neither endless urination nor slavering of the glands over his cheeks. So what was he playing at?
This unforgiving terrain, of unreliable water sources, of dry unbearable heat, of sparse vegetation required of humans and animals alike, remarkable adaptation to have the most fragile of holds on life. It is a life that was far removed from the luxuries of modern life. Yet, the terrain was one of the most beautiful that we had seen in our time. There was always in the distance a mountain range, and proximally rocks and boulders and in between isolated clumps of Acacias, Mopane trees, and Shepherd’s tree. In the evening weaverbirds, sunbirds, glossy starlings, shrikes, and hornbills made their presence known. Agama lizards, hyraxes, and ground squirrels were everywhere. It was a vast and immeasurable terrain that had been here forever.
At night the sky was so rich with stars that it glistened and pulsed like black velvet studded with diadems and gems. All this immensity and we were mere passing dots in eternity.
Photos by Jan Oyebode
We left Sossusvlei quite early. The journey was through Solitaire, a kind of way station for topping up fuel, using the restrooms and having a coffee. It’s famous for its apple strudel. It’s a strange place in other ways too. The owner of the car repair garage must be an eccentric person who collects broken down vehicles, hence the number of car carcasses adorning the site.
From Solitaire on through Gaub Pass and then Kuiseb Pass was typical of the contrasting geology and vegetation of Namibia. Solitaire to Gaub pass was notable for the flat plains that initially were flanked by the Naukluft range, traversing the Tropic of Capricorn. The plains were an incredibly golden yellow colour of grass. Before Solitaire the predominant grass was tufted off-white oryx grass. It carpeted the valleys and from the distance, it looked as if a soft rug of fluffed up cotton lay on the ground. Now, on the plains, the short grass shone and in the morning light was an aesthetically pleasing sight. This was a change to the red colour of the dunes at Sossusvlei.
Oryx, springbok, and mountain zebras grazed on the golden yellow grass. There was hardly a tree in sight. The gravel road cut a path through the grass and the mountains to the east ranged in tiers, several deep in the distance.
At Gaub pass, the hills closed in us and we turned and twisted and were surprised to find the river full and flowing vigorously down below us. The hills were now brown and black where they had been sand coloured and bleached. The hills were domed like a city of a million domes without any spires, seen from the sky.
We drove on to the Kuiseb Pass and again over the river, once again full and in speight here. The mountains here were black and grey-blue with marble and in strata and tilted sideways. It was dramatic and stunning.
We were now on our way downhill to the Atlantic. The plains were once again yellow and then sand coloured, then the treasured white of beaches except this was desert, pure, arid and barren. Even here there were still oryx and springboks. The only Steenbok we saw matched the green-blue of the mountains and it was squatting by Gaub Pass.
Into Walvis Bay, we travelled through what can only be described as dirty white sand stained by streaks of black. The plain was featureless and without any flank whatsoever. Next came the gravel plains that had the tint of cement.
Walvis Bay was an industrial town and port. It has an infamous history having housed German concentration camps, where Herero and Nama peoples were kept, tortured and murdered for daring to oppose German control of this land. The so-called “final solution” was first perfected here in Namibia before being executed to deadly effect during WW 2.
At one end of the seafront in Walvis Bay flamingoes and pelicans resided. Except, we did not see any pelicans. The flamingoes were nowhere near the number or density of flamingoes on the saltpans of Ethiopia, but they were still worthy for their elegance, their wonderful strutting and the impeccable lines of their flight.
Our destination for the evening was Swakopmund, a curious town of 50000 or so. It was a mix of Bavarian type housing and modern functional buildings. The traffic was sparse. There were few people about. It was a strained community. Black men hung about either singly or in groups. Whilst they were not overtly threatening, they were obviously desperate. The cost of real estate was astronomical- over 1.5 million Namibian dollars and for not much.
At the art market there were quite a lot of tacky crafts and a few masks made to order probably in China for the African market- apparently of Chokwe pedigree but a number were pretending to be the white-faced Ibo and Ibibio masks and we were at least 3000 miles down the West African coast from Nigeria. But just across the road were wild guinea fowl with their exquisite royal blue necks.
In the evening we went to dinner at The Tug, a fish restaurant built on the shell of an old tugboat. It was Valentine’s Day and there was dinner to celebrate this. When we arrived Jan was given a white rose and we were seated in a room that allowed a view of the Atlantic Ocean and of the sunset. I had snails in garlic for starters and grilled Cob, rice with peri-peri sauce. Jan had a salad to start and grilled Cob, fries and lemon butter sauce. The wine was a local Chenin blanc and cappuccino to finish.
Arnold brought his wife Maria to dinner too, to celebrate Valentine’s Day and, we joined them for our coffee. She was a fair skinned African woman with reddish skin. She had a pleasant, quiet manner and her English was without any discernible accent.
Then it was time for bed.
Photos by Jan Oyebode
Arnold, our guide, picked us up from Villa Vista after breakfast. Breakfast was on the roof, looking out to Windhoek and the distant hills. Another couple was having breakfast, a German couple, both about our age. The man had short grey hair and like me wore his beard short and, well trimmed. His wife was pale and brown haired. She stood behind him, caressing his head and then kneading his shoulders, all in affection and care. It was most embarrassing to watch such intimacy in public.
Arnold was as tall as me but far more well built. He was no darker. His head was dome-shaped from the back. His voice was between tenor and bass and his English was clearly enunciated without the flatness and harshness of South African accent.
Our jeep was well equipped: several spare tyres if we were to need it, two jacks, so many litres of fuel, water, water and even more water. We had a converter to charge up our devices, air conditioner, and radio to keep in touch with the world. We felt like real, modern explorers with little of the risks attached to discovering new worlds.
We drove out of Windhoek. It was already a hot day but it would become even hotter. The wind was rising, the predominant southwesterly was picking up. The ease with which sweat and water loss occurred in this climate was quickly brought home and the mantra was drink 3 litres per day, drinking small amounts frequently.
Between Windhoek and Rehoboth acacias predominated. There were innumerable varieties but of them all the sweet acacia with its yellow flowers that looked from a distance like mimosa was the most impressive. Also, the road was tarred, narrow like an ‘A’ road. It was rare to meet any other vehicle and as for farmsteads they were far apart and sparsely populated. This Namibia was a geographically large country, the size of France and the UK put together, but hardly populated.
Rehoboth was a town of “Basters”, Dutch and African mixed-race people who had moved to Namibia from South Africa in the 19th century and founded the town and named it after a figure in the Old Testament, Rehoboth, and meaning ‘We will flourish in this land’. Well, they haven’t flourished! They are considered a different tribe in Namibia and have not intermarried with other tribes. But, more ominously because of their intermediary position, they remained neutral in the protests and resistance movements that signalled the desire for freedom first from German rule and then from Afrikaans oppression. The inhabitants of Namibia have interpreted this neutrality of the Rehoboth as a betrayal. Apparently, the community has been devastated by alcoholism and drug misuse. I suppose you will have to think of them as marginal peoples.
We turned off the tarred road here at Rehoboth. That was the start of the gravel roads that crisscross this country. At the junction was a Shepherd Tree, the first of many that we saw. The country gradually became drier; there were fewer trees, even fewer acacias. Mostly now, were grasses and clumps of bleached bushes. We were now travelling alongside Naukluft, a mountain range of black lime and basalt, wonderfully shaped, endlessly played on by the light and forming shadows and mysteries according to the clouds’ desires and the interest of the shapes and mounds of its surfaces. Occasionally there were gigantic boulders, yellowish boulders of granite. To the far right, in the direction of the east, there was the escarpment, a range of mountains, flat-topped going all the way to Cape Town to join the Table Mountain.
I heard the term “Perennial River” for the first time. Not surprisingly, in a country that is this dry, rainfall is welcome and treasured. Every drop is received with gratitude. There must have been rainfall overnight: there were puddles, pools, truncated streams, of muddy water in a few places and every so often a watering hole, an oasis hidden within long grass and bushes.
Arnold was ecstatic; he was full of laughter for this meagre rainfall.
There were numerous common, sociable sparrow weavers. Their nests hung on tree branches and then in a spectacular display of ingenuity, they were sometimes balanced, beautifully designed nests, on the top ends of telegraph poles. We saw shrikes, a bustard, and maybe a Roller if not a glossy purple or brilliant blue starling such as one sees in Lagos. There were donkey herds, cattle herds, horses, goats, and fowl in settlements. But, the pick of the fauna was the Oryx, with their majestic horns and sable coats.
At sunset, it is impossible to describe how the mountains were lit up. The predominant palette was brown, earth dun brown; sometimes clear, sometimes cast in shadow to almost black, or bleached almost yellow or even dirty white. The sky speckled or darkening, and then the oyster white or resplendent tufted white of the clouds. A slight breeze, a fluttering of the ears of grass, and an expanse of blue, corn blue that stretched and then became elastic and encircled the horizon so that it was no longer a horizon but a circumference. Here you could turn a full 360 degrees and still have the horizon in view. That’s how large, how immense the sky was here in Namibia.
In the evening I sat and looked out at a group of six people riding back in single file on horses across the evening light. The horses: a grey, a deep brown, another soft brown, gently swishing their tails and coming in and, behind them a lone gazelle, a Springbok.
Next morning, it was an early start, 4:45 am to be precise. The drive started before dawn. The sky was still dark and the stars were still very visible. The new moon, a sliver of silver, if I might coin such a term was shining. As we swung into the entrance into Sossusvlei, the Naukluft range was to our east and it was, from this vantage point like giant battlements, castellations, towers, several deep in a defensive strategy that made this imagined rocky kingdom impregnable. The dark of the battlements was enhanced against the grey and slate blue in between.
To the West, the dunes, all 60 kilometres of this extraordinary corridor was the subject of a play of light and shadow, of various shades of red, from crimson to the deepest of ochre, even vermillion and cochineal. How shape, contours, texture and depth inflected the light to sing in the utmost register of the imagination, soaring and skirting, deepening and once again soaring to the pinnacle of the human voice, Maria Callas of the vlei, Puccini scaling the precise edges of the dunes.
This symphony was merely the prelude to the corridor of dunes on either side. At this point, the dunes traversed a dried river valley, the dried Tsauchab only present in the gravel beach of its bed. Like at Chesapeake Bay the gravel of basalt and granite formed an unusual beach. In this case, on both sides of the corridor, the beach rode like a skirt right up to the dunes edges, their pink and grey, starkly contrasting against the changing, ever-changing magnificence of the dunes.
We saw a solitary brown hyena dash across the road. Then springbok, Oryx, several ostriches, and a gerbil. When we passed Dune No 45, the supposed most aesthetically pleasing dune, there was already a gathering of enthusiasts, walkers and climbers, and keen photographers. We passed on. Our Dune, Big Daddy and Big Daddy’s arm, was the entrance to Deadvlei. There were others already making their way along the shape edge of the dune, climbing up towards its peak. We joined in this 1-2 mile hike, a test of stamina and bravery, at least in my case. The strain on the calves, on the buttocks, on the breath and lungs was, to say the least, demanding.
Once we were up, how to get down; the ordeal was to push our heels into the sand, down this precipice of sand. I, first of all, balked at it, but relented and down we went, every step the balance between slipping and rolling over and staying upright like a stick in the mud. Well, we arrived safely at the bottom, at the most alien world imaginable- petrified trees, 8-900 years old in the middle of a dried up river bed enclosed by mysterious dunes. The battle between the Tsauchab River and the dunes had been won by the dunes about 1000 years ago and, the river’s journey to the Atlantic had been blocked off. And, then the river starved of water, of rainfall had all but dried up. It still fills up occasionally but what can a river do if it is starved of rainfall?
Breakfast was under a thorn tree, albeit a dead one but providing enough shade to become our temporary home. Our guide, Arnold, became a master chef, without prior warning. He was rigged out with coffee, cheese, cold meat, scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausages (cooked on his magical stove). As we ate, a cathedral of sparrows arrived singing and waiting to drink from the camp container of washing up water. Perhaps twenty sparrows stood on the edge of the plastic container to make its edge fall to the ground so that they could dip their beaks in the water. A spectacle of team effort, of ingenuity and surprising intelligence. On the tree branches, there were piebald crows, cawing; the male loudly entreating the female, puffing up its chest, and spreading its wings. Sadly, the female was unimpressed and merely flew away. The male was undeterred and followed her. If he was human he might have been done for sexual harassment, for not taking no to mean no!
Just a few minutes’ drive away was Sesriem, a modest gorge, not far from Deadvlei. Its bottom was estimated 2 million years old. To walk along this antiquity was relatively easy, you just walked a few steps and turned left and walked another 500 metres and you were walking with Lucy, an Australopithecus afarensis. Strange idea.
By midday, the dramatic display of colour by the dunes had quietened down. The dunes were now mostly bleached laterite red. It was dawn and the rising sun that had played the singular role of quickening our hearts, showing how awe-inspiring Planet Earth was. And, it truly was awe-inspiring.
Photos by Jan & Femi Oyebode
We were on our way to Paris. We caught the Eurostar at St Pancras. The overnight stay at Comfort Inn and Suite was hardly comfortable. The suite, an ironic term, for a pokey room with a cupboard for a bathroom and barely enough space to swing one elbow and the other (or as the English say, to swing a cat) between the narrow passage that passed for a suite. In the event of a fire we would have collided with the radiator then the TV and then we finally extricated ourselves from this collision, there was still the broom cupboard that was home to our coats. Dismal is a euphemism for this hole in the ground. Well, some you win and others you lose. This was a loss.
When we arrived last night the receptionist, an Eastern European, probably Polish was to start with welcoming, that was until he asked for my passport, ‘Passport?’ I replied. This was the first hotel and I repeat myself, the only hotel in the UK where I had been asked for my passport (the word hotel was an exaggeration; this was really a hostelry). He asked for my passport and failing that my credit card for pre-authorization! That request might sound normal, even benign until you know that I had already paid and there was nothing to pre-authorize. A wholly unexpected and unpleasant series of exchanges then ensued. All that needs be said is I’m definitely not returning to the Discomfort Inn and Insult! Be wary dear traveler of holes in the ground in the neighborhood of King’s Cross-.
We had chosen a grey autumn day to travel. The countryside as it whizzed past was in mist, perhaps this was what atmospheric refers to. Think of a painting in a subtle grey palette with a dim, watery sun, barely visible on the edge of the canvass and you have the scene and maybe something of my mood too.
Friday morning and it was raining. The rain was striking against our hotel room window. It was cold too. Our room looked out at Boulevard Raspail and directly across the road was a chemist, with its green neon sign reading “Pharmacie”. I’ve been coming to this annual pilgrimage to Paris for the past 19 years except for 2 years all spent at Pitié-Salpêtrière discussing psychopathology, expanding and extending our knowledge of the intricacies of abnormal phenomena- delusions, hallucinations, the nature of reality, embodiment, and thinking itself which was our subject this year.
In the evenings, when Peter Berner was still alive we would assemble in his flat on Friday evening for an aperitif and then afterward across the road for dinner. In the later stages of his life when he was incapacitated with chronic obstructive airways disease and needed his own supply of oxygen to get about he ceased joining us at dinner. In his time Peter had been an authority on paranoia. His comments were always thoughtful and well judged. Alas, since he passed away the ritual of aperitif and joint dinner has fallen away.
As ever we were staying at Hotel Raspail. It was strange to think that we’ve been staying here year after year bar one year when I stayed next door. It is a most convenient site at the junction of Boulevard Raspail and Boulevard Montparnasse. Hemingway, Sartre, de Beauvoir and their friends ate and drank in the many cafes and restaurants a stone’s throw from here. At night the Gaite was full of life, the restaurants, bars, and cafes were bursting with people, and the low life of sex shops and massage houses and a Hamam that has now closed, like at Soho enriched the atmosphere. Now, it is not unusual or unexpected to find a Romany mother and child, lying on the pavement after midnight, in the cold, begging for money. This was even more conspicuous as the chosen site was directly in front of a bank at the corner of the five crossed roads. Homelessness and begging the twin evils of modern life!
We spent Saturday night with C & P. It was an evening of wine, French cuisine, and talk. On Friday night we had been to Duc Lombards jazz club to listen to a 13 piece Brazilian jazz band. We sat in the gallery, sipped our drinks, J had a non-alcoholic cocktail and I had a gin and tonic. The music was exactly as we expected- whiffs of the girl from Ipanema, Santana, and Yoruba drumming (not that the Brazilian musicians would have known this). The event seemed to be a magnet for mixed couples- next to us sat a young couple, the man African and his pregnant European partner and just behind us another young mixed couple. The same was true of some of the couples downstairs.
Before the jazz club, we had stopped to have dinner in a packed place just on the approach to the bridge into Cite. I had escargots for starters, which was as close I managed to get to giant African snails. My main course was paella- French style. There was a throng of young people everywhere within miles. Even though it was a cold night, the whole world and its mother were out for a good time.
At C & Ps operatic arias played in the background whilst we talked of children and their partners. And in our case of grandchildren and the new grandson just born barely 24 hours before. Then since P is American talk turned to Trump and his divisive and hateful messages. To my surprise, they had time for Macron, a man whose comments and outbursts about Africa mark him out as barely better than Trump except for his fluency and boyish looks. But perhaps in contrast to Hollande or Marie Le Pen, he was more desirable even admirable.
These December evenings along the Gaite where there was always a crowd drinking or eating or just coming out of Bobino, there was an atmosphere of gaiety, of the artistic life, and the numerous eating houses, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Italian acted like accents in a language, embroidering and enriching what otherwise could be merely flat and prosaic.
On Sunday we caught the Eurostar returning to London but halfway before entering the channel tunnel, we stopped for fear of a flood. We were delayed for 45 minutes and arrived in a London gripped by snow and ice. Trains out of Euston and Marylebone were either canceled or running late. At one point we did think we were never going to get out of London and might have to stay overnight in a hotel. Thankfully a canceled train was followed by 1740 to Birmingham Moor Street.
When I look back now the highlight of our trip, this time, was our visit to the exhibition of Malick Sidibé’s (1935-2016) photographs ‘Mali Twist’. Sidibé was born into a Peul family in Soloba. He trained as an artisan jeweler at what is now the National Arts Institute Bamako. His photographs are predominantly of young people in Bamako, at clubs and at the local beach, on the River Niger called Egret’s Rock.
The exhibition focused on the photographs of dances, mainly twist. But my interests were different. In an untitled photo, there were two young women, sitting side-by-side and facing in opposite directions. There was one in a sleeveless dress and the other in a short-sleeved dress. They both had cornrow braids and the one with a low cut dress, her décolletage visible, had a stone bead on. Their expressions were that of modest innocence that says we are maidens, pure. They had that shy downward shift of the eyes that is at once endearing and distancing.
Another photo had another young woman, an experienced woman who looked directly at the camera. Her broad nose and broader breasts, her collarbones like oars encircling the neck, and the wonderful sheen of black skin were like confidence and tranquility personified. Behind her was a basket unfocused on the window ledge. And there was another young woman, in trousers that were flared at the ankle. Her tight fitting blouse with its broad collar and her sun hat, her stance with arms at akimbo with face turned to the world, and her eyes staring directly at the camera. She had a modern attitude that was neither coquettish nor daring, simply free and unfettered by tradition. I suppose this was nonchalance. A tall slim woman in a long dress, bare at the arms had one leg on a stool. And her arm, her elbow was positioned on her raised thigh. She was modern and independent, she was open in her attitude, her fashion and style all turned to the future. These women were all the more remarkable because Sidibé said that many of them were now Muslim women with covered heads and demure manners.
In another untitled photo, an old man in his starched brocade boubou, with Obama’s ears, two jug handles astride his bony face solemnly stared at the lens. His grey beard and short-cropped hair, the lines of worry on his forehead and the wrinkles on his neck placed him where age and wisdom combine in folklore and myth to signal antiquity and trust.
I loved “Yokoro” a photo in which two young boys, stood next to one another. One, the taller of the two stood side on to the camera but with his head turned towards us. He was wearing a pair of shorts and long sleeved oversized jersey stuffed with a pillow or hay perhaps. His companion stood facing outwards with a raffia hat, holding a stick. His body was daubed in chalk markings. His groin covered in rolled up knickers. His face was painted white and large such that he had the appearance of a midget rather than that of a child. It was a spectacular photo, iconic and enchanting, also awkward and mysterious. Who are they, these two apparitions? What was their import, their provenance?
And then ‘The three FBI agents’- a photo of three young men in gabardine mactonishes standing close together, sideways on, at night. The middle of the three is in dark colors with his lapel and collar upturned. The other two in light colors. They all, had cloches on, the brim down and their pose was full of tension, the whites of their eyes, bright against the darkness and their sumptuously black skins strangely brilliant in the dark night. These were no ordinary agents, the Bamako noir was darkly threatening.
Sidibé’s art, his photography was unintended documentaries of a time, only just recently past, when style and modernity were emerging, purposefully aiming for a future that was optimistic and confident. That was all before the failure of leadership.
Photos by Jan Oyebode
Up here on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum, New York’s skyline juts up like a range of jagged cliffs piercing the dark sullen clouds. The breeze too was picking up and the vine leaves on the pergola were fluttering. The displays of statues were surprising. There were several dinner tables- one had a young woman and a cat coiled asleep under a rock that was really a large discarded mask and another was of a youth asleep over a knight’s effigy in eternal rest.
Inside was a Matisse ‘Sitting Odalisque’ of a young woman dressed perhaps for a harem, staring out at us. Her affect was inscrutable. The colors were out of a dream, pinks, greens, and blues in patterns behind her. She was in pantaloons and a voile blouse.
We had had enough of New York and it was time for other kinds of towns. Peekskill was a curious town. We stopped to browse books at Bruised Apple Bookshop. Then, at Fern Tree African Gift Shop, even more, curious than the town itself we found poor quality earrings, poorly packaged black soaps (Dudu Osun) and dresses in tie-dye and Dutch prints and pretend Kente. There was an Elk Lodge across the road from the Chase Bank and from there we could see the Paramount theatre with its mural. Bruised Apple Bookshop was playing Ali Farka Toure.
In Cold Spring, we ate. The village as self-styled had more antique shops on its high street, than cafes, restaurants or banks put together. We walked down Main Street to the Hudson. The waterfront had a pier, a square that jutted out into the river. Ahead of us was the range of hills and the Hudson Valley itself. The sun was glancing off the flowing river.
Upstate New York: these villages and towns had the feel of living outside time, not merely that time had left them behind but that time no longer existed for them and that if one chose or liked, one could just about live forever, without the encumbrances of electronic devices, and horses and carts might be resurrected with the scythe and the hobnailed boot. There was vertigo that came from free falling without the constraint of minutes and hours. Every moment was measured simply in seconds and these were slow languorous seconds too.
It was the lapping of the waves, and the breeze both jointly lulling me into fancy!
The shops had names like Arts and Antiques, Ellen Hayden Gallery, Bijou Galleries Ltd, Gallery 66NY, Kismet at Caryn’s, Pink Olive and the Gift Hut. The people were unhurried and the workmen too with their bronzed arms and pates, and the women with colorful red trousers, hair lacquered and frozen still and unruffled in the wind. The dark sunglasses were out but there were very few straw hats if any.
We drove to Audubon and parked the car in the 8-car parking lot and then walked down to Indian Brook Falls, a modest fall of clear spring water. From up on Constitution Hill, down in the marsh was a solitary heron.
It was not so strange how here at Sherwood Island Beach there were so many Canada Geese. They’ve only had to fly a few hundred miles due South. But, at Cannon Hill Park in Moseley Birmingham, they would have flown all of 3,00 miles! There were puny sized crabs under the rocks at the waterline and statuesque seagulls and their wonderfully brown patterned juveniles too.
\When I looked across the bay that was shaped like my earlobes, past the flotilla of sailing boats with their elegant white sails, there was Manhattan on the far horizon, just beyond the mist, a dense greyness just there.
It was a cool late summer day –Labour holiday weekend and there were clusters of families round benches and tables with the odd barbecue. The 9/11 memorial stone was placed exactly where the smoke of the Twin Towers was visible on the day and then the memorialized names. What a waste of innocent lives and an unspeakable callousness.
Yesterday at Cold Spring, it was the Hudson and the encircling hills. Later it was Bear Mountain peak and again the Hudson. Up there at Bear Mountain, there were women in traditional dress- probably Pakistani or Bangladeshi, with headscarves, with husbands and families and laughing as they looked down at the Hudson River. It was a Labour Day outing.
The contrast of New York City and suburban Connecticut was like black to mauve, radical without gradual fading out. It was possible to ignore the tragedy that was Houston, the open sore that was Trump. Everything that was against the grain was far away.
At Mianus watershed, the trails lead up and down, alongside oaks and silver birch. There were acorns everywhere. In the undergrowth, moss, iridescent green thrived on fallen and rotten logs and ferns had colonized the spaces left by fallen leaves. Also, there were toadstools and mushrooms.
It had been a gloomy, out of sorts kind of day, all day. The rain had thrown everything including the kitchen sink at the roof. Then surprisingly, a miraculous and angelic sun came out and in between the interlaced leaves and branches, the sun shone like a honey colored lacquer translucent in the air. The river did what all rivers do, it meandered and untwisted. Where it tumbled a few feet, it gurgled like a baby. We heard the few intermittent birdcalls and saw the unidentified yellow, brown or white streak of a bird in flight. It was a cool day, not unlike early autumn in Hebden Bridge up on one Crag or another.
Next day we ordered an Uber taxi to Norwalk and then hired a car. I shall pass over the laughable service from the Indian attendant, his ponderous scrutinizing of my driving license and passport. Let’s just say that he tried to find fault and failed.
The drive from Norwalk to Poet’s Walk was unexceptional. We stopped for lunch at the Red Hook Diner. It is always a surprise to come through a hundred miles of woods, forests, verdant valleys and hills in the distance and then to suddenly come to what amounts to a mediocre town with a string of clapboard houses on either side of the main street.
The Diner was friendly enough and the food portions were American sized, that is to say excessive. I left well over half of mine and so did Jan. Then it was to Poet’s Walk, a 3-mile loop through mown grass, then woodland, stopping at a gazebo, then a viewpoint of the Hudson and the Catskill mountains dimly visible in the mist. It was a muggy day and I was sweating like a pig and breathing like one by the end. Thankfully, it was a mere 3 miles.
Next stop Hudson where there was a revival going on. We stayed at 26 Warren Street in Edwards Room, named for Edward Avedisian, an artist who lived in this house for 30 years or so. We had an elevated 4-poster bed with hints of Buddhism- there was a photo of the Dalai Lama, a magnificent dragon prince, and Hindu paintings over our bedstead. The bedside lamps were huge red lilies on long stalks. Ah, wonderful!
Dinner was at American Barbecue. We sat in the terrace and at long last the rain that had been forecast all day finally arrived but late. We walked up Warren Street looking for a café at 8 pm but strangely they were all closed. This Hudson was proving to be a small town like Leamington Spa for instance. The renovated colonial buildings were elegant, pleasing and desirable. There were properties on the market that made the eyes water- a period detached house in 8 acres for a snip at $ 300K, and you can drive to a station and catch Metro North to NYC. Well I am about to pack up and leave Birmingham England, move to Hudson and commute to NYC. What about that for a career move?
By now the drizzle had turned into proper rain but not yet a torrent. We stopped off at Or, a bar and café. But we were the only two customers. There was the young barman, a DH Lawrence lookalike and a young woman, tall and well proportioned with a tattoo over one elbow. I think she wasn’t a natural blonde, the dark roots were showing through, but it suited her. I had a mug of coffee. A cookie, I hear you say, yes, a cookie, a chocolate chipped cookie no less. A first for me.
It was bedtime.
At breakfast the next morning we met two other guests, Gene, and his partner. Gene was a man in his late 60s and a book illustrator. His parents were involved in developing imaging for breast cancer. His partner was probably in her early 60s. She was a writer of spiritual, self-therapy books. She was the kind of person who holds your hand in both her hands and looks intently into your eyes, earnestly. She was far more optimistic than me and believed in positive psychology, I think. Dementia can be cured by the right diet and attitude and Daniel Ames has good evidence that this approach works- at least 80% of his patients recover! She was insistent that I look him up and I did. He is a controversial American psychiatrist who is obviously financially successful and his empire is built on functional neuroimaging of patients with purported dementia from which he derives he necessary nutritional prescription. Enough said!
I held back as long as I could manage- “ Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease and whatever Daniel Ames might say he couldn’t possibly cure it”. Between J and me we talked about neuroplasticity, the nature and importance of dendritic pruning in early life, and the structural effects of childhood trauma and abuse.
Whilst packing to leave, Gene’s partner knocked on our door to tell us how exceptional we were at explaining things- perhaps we should travel the world teaching. I said, “You’re so kind”. She said, “No, it’s not meant as a compliment, it’s true”. It was a well-meant comment and we took it in that way.
After a brisk walk up Warren Street, admiring the wonderful colonial New England buildings, several were undergoing renovation, we set off for “Olana”, Frederick Church’s estate overlooking an iconic bend on the Hudson River.
The house was set on the summit of a hill commanding what can only be described as the most spectacular view of the Hudson. From the balcony, the Catskills rising up in subtle colour changes bordered by the misty sky and the mighty river itself both lifted and calmed the spirit.
From the parlour, the window was framed as if it were a painting frame and the bend in the river was perfectly set like a changing display of nature for Man’s benefit. What arrogance and confidence.
In his time Church was one of the leading landscape painters in the USA. I can’t say that I responded to his artistic vision except for one or two paintings. His European contemporaries were Cezanne, Renoir, Pissarro, Monet, etc. I think Church was looking backward to the great Italian Masters and well he couldn’t match them for skill or inner vision. But notwithstanding my gripe, Olana was well worth a visit.
Next was Omi, a sculpture garden, like Olana, set in 130 acres of marvelous Connecticut country. There was Tony Tasset’s monumental Deer, the 3 white female busts by Philip Gransman- Victoria 1991-2000, Susanna 1996-99, and Leucantha 1988-93. Also, there was Bachler’s Walking Figure.
It was a miserable wet day and it took resolve to walk through 50 acres to see the figures round the lake. By the end my shoes were sodden. I was also famished- what can one expect given that 6 hours after a light breakfast, blood sugar levels were liable to drop?
We travelled to Rinebeck, a pretty town of restaurants and antique shops. We ate in Pete’s Famous Diner and eavesdropped on the female manager talking to a customer: these were two immigrant women with heavily accented English, one from Thessalonica and the other from Georgia. This was a welcome antithesis to Trump’s America. The way the mind works, Trump’s intolerance and now clearly delineated racism was one of the subject at breakfast and thankfully our host and the other guests were liberals who totally rejected racism and white supremacist ideology even though they were white.
David Brown who owns 26 Warren Street was a highly present human figure. We found out later that he had been a principal dancer at Martha Graham’s and jointly with his partner and ex-wife Elisa Monte owned their own dance company. He was a tall, bronze man with grey dreadlocks and a memorable sculpted face. He certainly made an entrance when he came to say ‘good morning’.
Bret, the other half of the duo who owned 26 Warren Street, was a gentle, dark haired woman who was solicitous and efficient both at once. She was also self-contained. She told us that she has two daughters in their 20s. She was most exasperated with the endless talk of what’s wrong with Trump- “We all know that he is bad, that he’s racist, now let’s get rid of him!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
This past fortnight, natural disasters included flooded Houston, Dhaka, and Markurdi. Sadly only Houston made the news. In the past 48 hours, Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and was now heading for Florida. Close on its tail was Hurricane Jose. These tempests are the physical embodiment of the tumultuous and catastrophic changes going on in America and with Brexit in the UK.
This long trip to America was coming to an end. On our last full day, we went to Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan. It was set in 49 acres and he lived there with his partner David Witney. Our guide told us the 3 themes governing Johnson’s architecture- procession, safe-danger and, reveal & hide. Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Johnson loved small entrances that opened out. I suppose he had in mind a flute, or the cervix what we call ‘Ferese ile omo’ in Yoruba.
Johnson’s Glass House was transparent from outside and also from inside. It was practically part of the landscape, and from some perspectives, it could be difficult to see, that is how much like gossamer the house was. It was surprising that Johnson and Witney lived in this transparent home – the elegant lines are equally matched by the frugality of the inner arrangements: no clutter, no unnecessary or unclean lines. This style has been termed ruthless elegance and I concur.
Johnson’s Kunst Bunker was currently home to Lynn Davis’ Ice- an exhibition of photos from Greenland. Again, like with Frederick Church, it’s not the aesthetic vision or the realization of innovation that I found most appealing- it was the audacity to work with nature, altering it where necessary, in order to master it and then leaving a mark.
Beside his house and the other buildings, my own personal approach stood out in relief and it is one characterized by self-doubt, by restraint, by a melancholic disposition, an awareness of our fragility as humans and our mortality. Maybe a poetic sensibility is more inclined to shadows, darkness, and the demonic. Also, there is the knowledge that words are inadequate to capture what is most important because these are ultimately unutterable and unspeakable.
The journey to JFK was by Uber. Our driver, Robert, was a man of about our age, that is in his 60s. He had majored in geology, psychology and media studies. His passion was geology, he told us, with the aim of working in the oil industry. By his account, the chairman of his academic department advised him against this as he (Robert) was Jewish and most oil works were in the Middle East. He switched to the theatre and worked as an actor on Broadway for a time. He moved into producing adverts and did well until 2008 when he “took a hit”. He was now working as a cab driver whilst trying to set up again. He talked endlessly and expressed surprising opinions and strange values. He pointed out Trump links, praised Bloomberg and Trump for how swiftly the deal was completed. He didn’t like De Blasio, a liberal, how sad some of the things he was doing in New York.
Robert told us “ docility and domestication were achieved in dogs by ruthless breeding, imagine what could be achieved in humans, etc.” I don’t believe that I had ever met anyone, who explicitly and without irony, promulgated eugenics as a potential contemporary solution and it was most strange.
I was troubled by the Immigration Act 1924. I had understood from Rachel Maddow that Congressional eugenics experts developed the originating Bill. And furthermore, that the decision to end DACA was in part determined by Jeff Session’s admiration for the 1924 Act that attempted to retain the racial demography of the USA to the 1850 census data. The racist/racialist underbelly of American life was continuously surprising and frightening especially given the current incumbent of the White House.
Glad to be going home.
Photos by Jan and Femi Oyebode