Notes from the black continent

This is one of the writers I’ve recently discovered and got pulled into the vortex of his stories in the genre of ‘magical realism’!

Notes from Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Shadow of the Sun. Photos by the illustrious Goran Jovic.

“The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say ‘Africa’. In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.”


Photo © Goran Jovic []

“We are here among people who don’t contemplate transience and the existence of the soul, the meaning of life and the nature of being. We are in a world in which man, crawling on the earth, tries to dig a few grains of wheat out of the mud just to survive another day.”


Photo © Goran Jovic []

“People are not hungry because there is no food in the world. There is plenty of it; there is a surplus in fact. But between those who want to eat and the bursting warehouses stands a tall obstacle indeed: politics.”

“The paradox of our world: If one figures in the cost of transporting, servicing, warehousing, and preserving food, then the cost of a single meal (typically, a handful of corn) for a refugee in some camp, for example in Sudan, is higher than the price of a dinner in the most expensive restaurant in Paris”.


Photo © Goran Jovic []

“More than anything, one is struck by the light. Light everywhere. Brightness everywhere. Everywhere, the sun. Just yesterday, an autumnal London was drenched in rain. The airplane drenched in rain. A cold wind, darkness. But here, from the morning’s earliest moments, the airport is ablaze with sunlight, all of us in sunlight.”

Photo © Goran Jovic []

Photo © Goran Jovic []

“Here is an oral tradition, legends passed from mouth to mouth, a communal myth created invariably at the base of the mango tree in the evening’s profound darkness, in which only the trembling voices of old men resound, because the women and children are silent, raptly listening. That is what the evening hour is so important: it is the time when the community contemplates what it is and whence it came.”

Photo © Goran Jovic []

Photo © Goran Jovic []

“One of the differences between African and European societies is the latter’s division of labor: specialization, strictly defined expertise, professionalism. These principles are only marginally in effect in Africa. Here, especially these days, one must try one’s hand at dozens of occupations and do many things, most frequently not for long and—alas!—not too thoroughly. In any event, it is difficult to find anyone who has not had a brush with Africa’s prime life force and passion: the exchange of goods.”


Photo © Goran Jovic []


“A white man is such an anomaly, a foundling from another planet, that it is possible to stare at him with interest almost forever.”

“I told him about how I was being continually robbed. Suleiman considered this to be something completely normal. Theft is a method—admittedly unpleasant—of lessening inequality. It is good that they rob me, he declared. It can even be seen as a friendly gesture on the part of the perpetrators—their way of letting me know that I am useful, and, therefore, that they accept me. Basically, I can feel safe. Have I ever felt threatened here? No, I had to admit. Well, there you go! I will be safe here as long as I let myself be freely robbed”

Photo © Goran Jovic []

Photo © Goran Jovic []

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