The African Condition: What Shall We Remember?

The African Condition: What Shall We Remember?

There are cities I cannot write about. Cities so full that you cannot hold them in your mouth or hands—spilling over onto sidewalks and tarmac, reaching into the recesses of your blood memories for something you once knew. But how do you remember a thing you’ve never seen? A city you’ve never met? Perhaps it’s the city’s stunning geography or its dizzying history but something stops you before you can put pen to paper that says, “wait, you do not understand… yet.”

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Ana Maria

Ana Maria

He speaks not to me, not to her, but is sound in his resolution. Her, being Angelica, the fierce Honduran American sitting beside me on the beach. Hours earlier, she had driven us to this strip of island on Florida's West Coast so we could stare at the blue. And Ana Maria Island is all blue. A seven-plus mile long expanse of land and sand strewn into the Gulf of Mexico to remind you, yes you, that you are living your best life. It is generous. 

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Mombasa

Mombasa

In our younger days, she had brought us spices and gold of the most exotic kind from China, India, Persia and beyond. Sealing them in boats carved out of trees older than us and wrapping them in bows set as sails. All along the coast—from North to South— we had sat at the turret of our windows awaiting the gifts she gingerly teased into her embrace as she carried them from her mouth to her womb. 

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Nairobi's Bubble

Nairobi's Bubble

On our way home, we drive past the never ending Kibera slums, speeding down the shiny, new Southern Bypass—a gift from our new Chinese friends that had come with some unintended consequences (but such is the price of development). I am forced to look away as the minutes go by and the shanties do not. Later, when I sit down with two former high school friends and they tell me about the Kibera tours handed out to eager tourists, I cringe even further. A city teeming with new housing while housing one of the largest slums in Africa. 

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Cape Town

Cape Town

When the water comes to find you, you must not be afraid. It will seek you and appear to engulf you as it carves continental shapes into your edges. You may cry out in surprise as you did when they dipped you into the water at your baptismal and made you afraid of the water then, of what was to come. But the water is the only thing that binds us all—connecting you to me and bridging the distance between continents.

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