Archive for South Africa

Rooibos tax for aboriginal communities

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2020 by xi'an

Just read in the 150th anniversary issue of Nature that the South African Government had agreed to a share of the rooibos tea profits be reversed to the aboriginal San and Khoi communities. Following a lengthy debate on whether or not rooibos tea was in use before European settlers invaded the area. I cannot remember when I started drinking rooibos but it may have been connected with reading my first book of the delicious Mma Ramotswe and the №1 Ladies Detective Agency series…! Which author, Alexander McCall Smith is a self-declared tea addict. (Since the story is located in Botswana, I have no idea whether or not tea is exported from this country and if the benefits reach the local communities.)

so long, Johnny Clegg!

Posted in Kids with tags , , , , , , on July 17, 2019 by xi'an

“Stein deviates from the statistical norm”

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on November 27, 2016 by xi'an


the girl who saved the king of Sweden [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2015 by xi'an

When visiting a bookstore in Florence last month, during our short trip to Tuscany, I came upon this book with enough of a funny cover and enough of a funny title (possibly capitalising on the similarity with “the girl who played with fire”] to make me buy it. I am glad I gave in to this impulse as the book is simply hilarious! The style and narrative relate rather strongly to the series of similarly [mostly] hilarious picaresque tales written by Paasilina and not only because both authors are from Scandinavia. There is the same absurd feeling that the book characters should not have this sort of things happening to them and still the morbid fascination to watch catastrophe after catastrophe being piled upon them. While the story is deeply embedded within the recent history of South Africa and [not so much] of Sweden for the past 30 years, including major political figures, there is no true attempt at making the story in the least realistic, which is another characteristic of the best stories of Paasilina. Here, a young girl escapes the poverty of the slums of Soweto, to eventually make her way to Sweden along with a spare nuclear bomb and a fistful of diamonds. Which alas are not eternal… Her intelligence helps her to overcome most difficulties, but even her needs from time to time to face absurd situations as another victim. All is well that ends well for most characters in the story, some of whom one would prefer to vanish in a gruesome accident. Which seemed to happen until another thread in the story saved the idiot. The satire of South Africa and of Sweden is most enjoyable if somewhat easy! Now I have to read the previous volume in the series, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared!

Fleur du Cap

Posted in Wines with tags , , on January 2, 2010 by xi'an

A very surprising (even puzzling) dry Sauvignon from South-Africa. Far from the quality of Goat-Roti and Goat-du-Roam introduced to me by my friend Jim, but still enjoyable!

District 9

Posted in Kids with tags , , on November 15, 2009 by xi'an

District 9 came out while I was in New York City this summer and the Metro newspaper (and its alter egos) was so highly enthusiastic that I vaguely tried to go and see the movie while there. It did not work out in the end because going to the movies is not priority #1 when visiting NYC for a few days. As the  original (English) version of District 9 happened to be shown in a nearby theater (presumably for the last time in the vicinity!), I went there with my son on Friday night to take advantage of this opportunity. There were very few people in the theater, unsurprisingly, but the movie is a real gem! I won’t get into a full review mode, see Mark Huber’s entry for that, especially about the surprise factor, but I found the story fast-paced and quite gripping, despite a few shortcuts in the plot (like the recovery of the cannister), the filming unusual and innovative, through news archives and interviews,  and the themes presented there very compelling. The analogy between the aliens and black South-Africans during the apartheid era is obvious, but the themes of racism and exclusion run deeper, with a large role played by a nebulous corporation called MNU that takes care of policing District 9 but  actually engages into illegal biological research on the aliens. (The behaviour of the security guards is not without reminding me of Blackwater mercenaries in Irak.) Another strength of District 9 is the choice of the hero Wikus van de Merwe, who first behaves like an absolute cretin, cowardly implementing the orders of the corporation and exhibiting all the typical patterns of xenophobia. His moral transformation under extreme circumstances is the more interesting for this inauspicious start—and it reminded me of this older story set in South Africa where a rare disease turns a racist white woman into a black woman and where she has to cope with the discrimination in her turn, a rather easy but effective narrative trick—.  It is harder to relate to the main alien character, despite its anthropomorphism, but District 9 manages to drive the spectator far enough into this direction. The least enjoyable part of District 9 is the very long battle scene at the end of the movie which does not bring much, once the sacrificial choice of van de Merwe is stated. (It feels too much like a video game, with the hero’s life not being truly at stake.) The final news snapshots are a fitting end to the movie.