East Africa

Changing Stories, Stories for Change

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 7, 2014

  We know a good story can change us. But can our stories really change society? Writers, poets, journalists, arts educators, and cultural activists based in and around Dar es Salaam, Tanzania convened on Saturday March 8 at Soma Book Cafe to explore the link between art and social change in a one-day workshop organized […]

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Speaking truth to power

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein February 13, 2013
sauti za busara

When we listen to our favorite musicians, click on a Youtube video, share a link, float on a sound cloud from one good song to the next, we don’t usually think about what it took to make that song available to us. If we’re at all connected to the music world, we might sympathize with the woes […]

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Occupy Stone Town, Zanzibar?

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein October 30, 2011

I should be working right now. But I am preoccupied by the occupations. All around the world, from New York City to Rome, Boston to Barcelona, Miami to Moscow, every day citizens have organized to occupy the centres of financial power that have for decades caused and perpetuated gaps between rich and poor. There’s been […]

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Flies and Floods: a Jewish passover in Zanzibar

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 19, 2011

Mah Nishtana Halailah Hazeh? Why is this night different from all other nights? Maybe because I was celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover on the predominantly Muslim island of Zanzibar. As far as I can tell, I am the only Jew around, at least who’s willing to admit it. I myself have always grappled with […]

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Maji, maji, where’s my maji? Living with Zanzibar’s severe water crisis

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein March 30, 2011

I just had another flurry of rude text message exchanges with my landlord, Mohammed. The subject? Maji. (Water). No running water now for days. No shower. No cooking. No cleaning. No water. I called him, no answer. Then I texted him. His response? Sijui. (I don’t know [what to tell you.] Texted him again: say […]

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Stitched secrets, public poetics: My obsession with kanga text/iles in East Africa

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein March 23, 2011

Some people think it was my love for a certain local fisherman that brought me back to Zanzibar. True, I did fall in love. But it was my obsessive love for kangas — those vibrant textiles inscribed with poetic Swahili text messages at the bottom — that truly seduced me. The ubiquitous kanga, worn by […]

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Alphabet power and orthographic ghosts: The short story of Swahili script

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein March 2, 2011

In Swahili, uhai means “life.” In Hebrew, it’s chai. In Arabic, it’s haiya. So there it is, life itself braided into three languages entangled with my own history as an American Jew strangely drawn to life in East Africa. I often explain my ability to speak Swahili as some wacky fallout of a liberal arts […]

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Piko in Paje – ancient Swahili lady lessons on pleasure and pain

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein February 17, 2011

“Siri ya mtungi aijuae kata.” The secret of the water pitcher is only known by its ladle. — Swahili proverb Where did you learn about sex ? I mean, not just about sex, but about pleasure? My sex education happened haphazardly in hotel lobbies during Bar Mitzvah time-outs, when we’d lounge on couches after sweaty […]

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