The Jungo: Stakes of the Earth

I finished two books recently: The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction edited by Raph Cormack and Mack Schmookler; and The Jungo, Stakes of the Earth by Abdel Aziz Baraka Sakin. The former is a collection of stories in a series named “A City in Short Fiction” and it is a very poetic ride and a peak in some contemporary Sudanese fiction. I would have appreciated an edition with longer excerpts though and I’m also asking: why, almost as a rule, are the original titles in literature translated from the Arabic so often missing? Anyway, if you know who is Mehdi, you will have a good time with these excerpts.

I am already missing Baraka Sakin’s novel. It’s one of those stories in which you hate to get closer to the finish because you would like the sesame-picking seasonal workers in al-Hillah, close to the Sudanese-Eritrean-Ethiopian border, to keep you company on and on. I had a few good laughs out loud with this book! The strength of this novel is in the way it is told, almost circularly with a hint of repetition on whatever strange topic or incident shakes the lives of these people.

Abdel Aziz Baraka Sakin: The Jungo, Stakes of the Earth. Africa World Press, 2015. Translated by Adil Babikir.

We headed back to the market, leaving Alam Gishi behind to get ready for her new job. It was noon, and the bank workers were hard at work. The bank would surely be up and running before the next agricultural season. Rumors were circulating that the bank was destined to change the map of wealth and power, and restructure production relations in favor of those in lower income brackets, small-scale farmers and the poor. It was meant to extend interest-free Islamic loans to every producer and farmer. Some analysts interpreted the word “producer” to be an all-inclusive term that embraced literally everyone, without exception. Based on that analysis, it included, without limitation, the big endaya owners, peddlers, ladies selling date arrack, and charcoal sellers. Wad Ammoona thought about opening a small bar by the river bank, similar to the existing one on the eastern bank of the Setit River overlooking Hamdeyit village, which was frequented by clients who would have to swim their way to the other shore, into the Ethiopian territories, carrying no passport, ID, or even a paper with their name on it. Wad Ammoona’s bar would be a blessing for those pleasure seekers and would spare them the risk of drowning in transit.” (p. 85)

Streets of Saint-Louis

Reblogged from Afropolis

AFROPOLIS

What makes you remember a street? Is there an area in town to which you return often? Why? We all know how specific areas within any given city have their own feel and pace, depending on the time of the day. I was always a walker and in whatever town I lived, I always developed a fast understanding of my own favorite neighborhoods. In the case of Saint-Louis, it’s the northern part of the island, or the sandy stretch of land further north by the Mauritanian border in Goxum Bacc and Sal Sal.

Pikine CEM, Saint-Louis

Now during the Covid-19 pandemic I start my days by walking around the island very early in the morning, and I check the surface of the river first thing as some sort of a fortune teller or weather forecast. I would also choose my first walk or bicycle route of the day always by…

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It’s all about sand

I always wondered what the plural for the word “oasis” was.. and here is a re-blogged entry about one called Varess!

AFROPOLIS

Vares is a small oasis village close to Mhairith (أمحيرث) and hardly available for a virtual visit on Google Maps. As a prelude to the urban Nouakchott, where you see signs of nomadic lifestyle even in contemporary housing, I wanted to share a couple of photographs from this region where dates are produced and where the housing is amazingly practical and ecological. Here the buildings are designed either for a permanent occupation or more often for temporary shelter for the workers who live here during the harvest season. Everything is build from what you get from the surroundings and with very basic purpose: to provide shelter from sun, wind and sand. This is a very rocky environment, and yet there is also sand that moves and it does so constantly. You don’t necessarily want to fight it and so you build stone walls with holes in it that allow the…

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Dubai Fever

Immune or infected by Dubai fever?

AFROPOLIS

When I see cityscapes with the silhouettes of skyscrapers, I often wonder: how do these massive buildings make you feel in a city? Urban? Contemporary? Modern? Proud? Chic? Rich? Poor? Small?

Addis downtown area and some other parts of the city are growing fast into the skies creating striking contrasts with older buildings that are still standing next to them. You can’t but wonder whether Addis is contaminated with what is known as “Dubai fever?” This syndrome, or Dubaiization manifests itself with the desire to copy an urban model lined with capital and power, and it gives you the impression of a city designed overnight. Buildings look as if they were imported from another location and planted to a new one without the original context. This cut and paste method leaves out local history altogether.

When I was strolling the streets of Addis I could…

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Tata no 36 to Guediawaye

Reporting back from my Tata bus rides in Dakar – reblogged from Afropolis.

AFROPOLIS

The other day I hopped on a Tata bus no 36 that takes you from Ngor Garage to Guediawaye. These small Tata buses get packed with passengers very fast but on this particular trip I even had a seat! I like public transport in cities and not the least because using it really gives you a sense of place, provided that you have unhindered access to a window while you travel. Taking the bus in almost any Senegalese city is often a “full body experience” with frequent stops and engagements with fellow passengers. I am rather impressed by the ability of the Senegalese to make space in a bus that already looked too full a long time ago, and by their collaborative nature to make the coins travel from hand to hand towards the cashier who sits at the back of the bus and whom you can barely see when…

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