'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.


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


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