'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

Paradise off the coast of hell

Supporters of an unidentified political party,...

At a political rally in the dusty capital last November. (Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife)

Adam Nossiter, The New York Times‘ new West Africa bureau chief, continues to blow my mind. First it was his stunning, startling dispatches from the brutal election and its aftermath in Guinea-Bissau. (See my thoughts thereon here.)

Now Nossiter takes us to the Archipelago of the Bijagós, off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. Cursed and simultaneously blessed by having been a Portuguese colony, the tiny West African nation is today an emblem of neglect and dysfunction but also good food and an alluringly melancholy comportment.

I very much want to go to the Archipelago, which Nossiter writes ia a “spattering of 88 palm-fringed-islands in the Atlantic Ocean, only 23 of them inhabited.”:

To just say that these verdant tropical specks have miles of deserted, spectacular beaches, peculiar feats of nature like a rare herd of saltwater hippopotamuses, and unusual customs like one of the world’s few functioning matriarchies — women have traditionally chosen their mates, with little right of refusal, on the island of Orango — is to do them an injustice. Because to arrive in the Bijagós after the two-hour ride in a small speedboat from the decrepit yet ingratiating capital of the country, Bissau, is to enter another world and another century, though it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly which ones.

I may not get there soon nor will my feet likely touch down anywhere near Nossiter’s stomping grounds, but in the meantime, with his writer’s touch and fresh eyes, I’m confident he’ll continue to get me as close as words can get.

Thanks.

via West Africa’s Bijagós, a Tranquil Haven in a Troubled Land – NYTimes.com.

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Filed under: Africa, New York Times, Travel, World, Writing, , , , , ,

Two reporters kicking ass in Africa

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

When I heard that the excellent New York Times reporter Adam Nossiter was leaving his post in New Orleans to cover West Africa, I was devastated. There’s maybe no city out there that means more to me than NOLA, and it felt important that the paper of record had such an able body for the job. I needn’t worry.

Not only did the Times appoint a new reporter to cover New Orleans, Louisiana, and the south, but it sent the excellent Nossiter to a region that — and I had no idea — he would pretty quickly begin covering in profound and insightful ways.

Let’s take it to the page: Nossiter has hit several home runs just this week, covering the aftermath of bloodshed in the capital of Guinea. In several reports, he wrote a set of powerfully vivid — but restrained and appropriate — stories that recreated the day so many in the capital were gunned down. In the most recent piece, published Saturday, he took us straight to the top, where we meet the brutal, insane, and terrifying military captain behind all the horror:

Three days after the massacre Monday in which as many as 157 people died protesting Captain Camara’s military rule, he rambled on to a gathering of reporters till nearly midnight as aides fidgeted under giant portraits of their leader. Then he offered to send the reporters to nightclubs.

“Whatever you want, at whatever time,” said Captain Camara, clad in the fatigues he never sheds. “On my tab, as chief of state.” For some reason he added, “I am incorruptible.”

You should immediately begin following the work of Nossiter, whose upcoming books and magazine articles will no doubt also be stellar. But don’t overlook a second stand-out Times reporter in Africa: Jeffrey Gettleman, whose heroics in covering piracy off northeast Africa are only matched by the competence and comprehensiveness of his reporting.

Here’s a Saturday profile in the Times by Gettlemen, in which he discovered a 37-year-old Somali-born war-lord who’s taken his decades in peaceful Minnesota back to the bush.

Above the shimmering horizon, in the middle of a deserted highway, stands an oversize figure wearing a golf cap, huge sunglasses, baggy jeans, and an iPhone on his hip, not your typical outfit in war-torn Somalia. But then again, Mohamed Aden, the man waiting in the road, is not your typical Somali. The instant his guests arrive, he spreads his arms wide, ready for a bear hug.

“Welcome to Adado,” he says, beaming. “Now, let’s bounce.”

Stay tuned for more reporting, from what is probably our most difficult continent.

Filed under: Africa, Don't be lazy, Journalism, New York Times, , , , , ,