Elnathan John - The Keeper of Secrets
‘This is the market,’ Michael says as we drive slowly around potholes, past stalls made of wood and zinc, which lean against each other in ways that seem both steady and precarious.
People weave their way through the slush of mud made by rain and cars, defiantly wading through dirt roads, leaping from one more-solid patch of ground to another. Bodies touch in the now reduced space, seeking access to stalls selling vegetables or meat or huge piles of crayfish. Motorcycles groan through the thick meal of mud, sliding sometimes before
regaining balance. At the roadside, women invite customers to haggle over piles of large, muddy, freshly harvested yams.
Bongani Kona - A Murder in Clovelly
There are things that photographs of missing persons can’t tell you. The proportions of their bodies, for one, or how they walk, whether or not they have a limp – the details people remember. They belong to that genre of official photographs – the headshot used for an ID, say, or a driver’s licence – that privileges function over form. But the information they convey is almost always incomplete.
Beatrice Lamwaka - The Mission at Verona
This is how the war starts for me. I am eight years old and in Primary Three at Lacor School. My father is a doctor – at least, that is what everyone calls him. Dakta. I find out much later that he is actually a medical assistant. He treats people from home, early in the mornings before he goes to work on his bicycle and when he returns in the evening. Our home smells like a hospital.
Chike Frankie Edozien - Forgetting Lamido
I open my eyes, but I’m not moving. This siesta has probably lasted twenty minutes, and now I’m staring at the lanky body awakening beside me. It’s mid-afternoon, and outside the streets are choked with crawling vehicles. The ubiquitous horn blaring over the past few days has been getting on my nerves. When did Ikoyi become so noisy? At least it’s serene here inside the Moorhouse. The air conditioner is humming softly, chilling the room. The severe brown wood-panelling décor evokes masculinity. Nothing’s soft about the furnishings. This small boutique hotel may be tailored for busy businesspeople, but it’s also an oasis from the chaos of Lagos. And it’s in this oasis that I’m cosy and reconnecting with my childhood love. I stretch and see our naked selves in the mirror, legs intertwined on the crisp white sheets. All afternoon we’ve been canoodling. Then having furtive, furious sex.
Kofi Akpabli - Made in Nima
I sense awurey, a marriage ceremony, in the making. There is that smell in the air of sheepskin being burnt off the carcass. Women dressed in white lace are fanning freshly lit fire; the blue smoke rises gently to kiss white balloons festooned along a streetlight. Squatting over logs, young men are chopping bloodied meat. Ta! Ta! Ta! In a couple of hours this rhythm will be replaced by the happy sounds of the dondo, celebrating another union to increase the population of this community.
Kevin Eze - Eating Bitter
I stand in a queue in front of the Hotel de la Ville in central Dakar. The Lions of Teranga, Senegal’s national football team, will be hosting their Ivoirian counterparts, the Elephants, and I am waiting, along with hundreds of fellow fans, for a ticket to the match on 13 October 2012. In front of me is a man with a head shaped like a football. I see the sweat on his neck, the 3.30pm July sunburn. I see the long-range Galaxy cellphone and the missed calls log on a dim red mark arcing towards the edge. My own cellphone rings, and I speak in English with a caller from Lagos. The moment the man hears me, he sees an opportunity to practise his English, turns to greet me and introduces himself as Yun.
Hawa Jande Golakai - Fugee
There’s a saying that goes, ‘You can’t go home again’. It offers no direction on where you’re supposed to go. It’s meant to be poignant: some manner of existential examination of how things once lost can’t be retrieved, re-lived – at least, not from the same perspective. I think. I’ve always been a little too literal for deep sayings.
Isaac Otidi Amuke - Safe House
That Saturday morning I wore faded blue jeans, a pair of wellworn but still in vogue brown suede loafers I’d bought from the flea market outside City Stadium on Jogoo Road, and a black long-sleeved shirt tucked into my pants. The thing about the City Stadium loafers was that as much as they were pre-owned by someone in either Europe or America, they were still in pristine condition, and whenever I wore this particular pair, which I had owned for over a year, I got the same feeling of comfort and self-assurance I’d felt the first time I’d put them on.
Mark Gevisser - Walking Girly in Nairobi
After my meeting with Peter,1 I dropped him on the Ngong Road to get a matatu (minibus) back to where he lived, outside of the city, in a communal house with twenty other refugees. I watched him tuck his long braids back into his red beanie and martial his slight frame, rendered even skinnier by his tight green jeans, into the step of the street. He arranged his eloquent features into a blank rictus of masculinity and disappeared into the rush hour throng.
Dream Chasers: Msingi Sasis’s Nairobi Nights with an introduction by Otieno Owino
In daylight hours, downtown Nairobi bustles. The streets are filled with pedestrians, traders display goods in shop windows, hawkers sell merchandise, and matatus jam the roads, with music blaring from built-in speakers and crew loudly beckoning passengers. There is urgency in the movement, as if everybody is chasing something that they must get in order for life to continue. It is not possible to live in this city and not be caught up in, or moved by, this rhythm. But the urgency sometimes only reinforces the fleeting nature of urban existence. Nairobians chase dreams: mostly opportunities for a better life. If the city, then, is a collection of individual dreams, then every individual’s dream must remain important for the city to stay important.
Sarita Ranchod - Border Crossings
In my first year of formal schooling, at an Indian primary school, Janet and John was our prescribed text. I was five years old and already reading by then, thanks to my mother, Ba, sourcing early-learning reading and writing materials via the school where she worked. I was intimately familiar with Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks, Snow White, Cinderella, Rupert the Bear, and Noddy – all of the characters in these books coming from bedtime reading or storytelling by one of my aunts, or from library books. Gollywog from Noddy was the only black character I encountered in these stories from my early childhood.
Simone Haysom - The Life and Death of Rowan du Preez
Cape Town and its suburbs sprawl across a peninsula that juts out into cold and fierce seas, flanked by dozens of beaches – tiny crooked shores, long windswept banks, and bays festooned with boulders. On the Indian Ocean side, which the poor can reach by train, there are fishermen, tidal pools and discarded plastic bottles; the models and their mansions are found beside the Atlantic. October ushers in the summer with fits and starts of warm weather, and legions of tourists and locals visit these beaches, sunbathing, swimming, kite flying and surfing. The beach sand of the Cape is soft, fine and pale, thanks to the beating it receives, day after day, century after century, from two relentless oceans.
Neema Komba - The Search for Magical Mbuji
When I first heard about Mbuji – a mystical treasure hidden deep in the middle of Mbinga – I was skeptical. ‘The rock has secrets,’ my uncle Alexander, who lives just a few hours’ walk from the Mbuji rock, told me. ‘I have passed the rock many times, but I do not pay close attention to it. I figure if I mind my own business, the rock will leave me alone.’
Barbara Wanjala - A Woman’s Smile
The first time I saw Ndeye Kebe, she was standing on her balcony with her eyeglasses tinted in the sun and her mobile phone held close to her ear as she waved at Babacar and me on the street below. Babacar, not to be confused with my regular taximan, Boubacar, spoke very little French and was not familiar with the northern outskirts of Dakar. Noticing that we had driven past the Léopold Sédar Senghor Stadium three times, I called Ndeye, who patiently guided him through the streets of the sprawling Parcelles Assainies commune in Wolof. Babacar had agreed to CFA2,500 prior to setting off, but because the trip had been more circuitous than anticipated, he wanted 500 more francs. Ndeye was waiting; there was no time to quibble. I paid and thanked him cheerily, ‘Jerejef!’, then quickly exited the yellow Renault.