Dispatches from Zanzibar by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein

Review: Curse of an Addict — Zanzibar

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein July 23, 2014

Curse of An Addict—Zanzibar Director: Lovinsa Kavuma UK/Uganda, 2014 It’s been a month since I was first introduced to Seif and I can’t get him out of mind. Seif was a heroin addict who lived in Stone Town, Zanzibar, and I ‘met’ him through a harrowing short documentary about his life called Curse of an […]

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How to break up with an island

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein October 6, 2013
2013-03-21 18.31.06

Step #1 — Unfairly blame all your unhappiness on the island. And then realize the island is YOU. Many of us spent our days trying to explain the inexplicable of Zanzibar. A vortex, a magnet, a spell. It’s the tiny island with an epic history, whose trade winds speak the language of spirits. It’s a […]

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One [billion] rising, Zanzibar

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein March 1, 2013

Violence against girls and women is the world’s most disturbing open secret.  One out of three women in the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.  Many girls’ first sexual experiences are unwanted. She was raped by someone she knew. He beat me, but I love him. Story after story of violence against […]

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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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A morning with “Mr. Hurricane” – Haji Gora Haji, Zanzibar’s most beloved poet

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein October 12, 2012

Just when I think that Zanzibar and I are at complete odds with each other, I have a morning like this one, where a beloved poet walks into my office and speaks to me in poetry. Never mind that he is approximately 80 years-old and speaks a kind of Swahili that is so deep and […]

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Suicide, local. Suicide, global. (And it was already too much).

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 24, 2012

Last month, a Zanzibari teenage girl jumped from the second floor of her school building to her death. It happened on a Thursday in the Hurumzi neighbourhood of Stone Town, Zanzibar. Some say she was the victim of mashetani — spirits – who had descended upon the school building, sparking mass hysteria on Tuesday and Wednesday, […]

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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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Notes on a Zanzibar tragedy

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein September 11, 2011

This is not a news report on an enormous tragedy. I don’t have all the facts. No one does – yet. This is me in tears writing down the terrifying reality of a capsized cargo ship, the overloaded MV Spice, and its hundreds of passengers, mostly teenagers and children, who all sunk down in the […]

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Glamorous repression: a review of an unpublished review

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein July 19, 2011

As long as I didn’t yell fire in a crowded theatre, I could pretty much say anything I wanted. That’s the democracy lesson I got when I was in middle school in the Midwest of the United States. Our teacher also assigned somewhat eerie post-colonial exercises like making up our own islands and then conspiring […]

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One hundred steps: Body-building at the Hindu crematorium

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein June 23, 2011

Burning is learning. That’s what our guide at Varanasi’s burning ghats told me and my sister as we stood along the Ganges River, inhaling the smoke and dreams of the formerly alive. I was twenty-eight years old. I thought that life would get easier as I got older. That love would be as natural as […]

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Live from the sky: liminal notes and observations from Addis to D.C.

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein June 5, 2011

These notes have been written between countries — in that space beyond countries — where borders are only imagined and the world below looks like a pregnant map relieved of all its flatness. I’m writing in that mildly frantic but sleepy traveler’s space: counting backwards to determine local time, attempting to reconcile body with mind, and telling […]

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Our last hours: rapture, judgment day, and faith explored in Zanzibar

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein May 27, 2011

We all have a series of last hours that lead up to the final hour, I suppose. The last hour before boarding a plane, returning home again, leaving the island. The last hour before the final exam, that make-it-or-break-it interview, the big game. The last hour of contractions before the final push. The last hour […]

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Langston Hughes in Paradise

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein May 12, 2011

In the later part of his life, the poet Langston Hughes made several trips to Africa, presenting and leading writing workshops all the way from Nigeria to Uganda. Some say he emerged as an official celebrity in Africa when, in Senegal, he delivered a pivotal speech entitled “Black Writers in a Troubled World,” declaring that […]

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Oh. My. Osama. Oh. My. God(dafi).

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein May 6, 2011

Is it unpatriotic to say that Osama bin Laden had nice eyes? In the twenty-four rippling hours following reports of bin Laden’s death and burial at sea, I’m left scrolling through his public photo album online, staring at images of bin Laden as a young soldier in Afghanistan, a young revolutionary with hints of Che-spirit, […]

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The Technicolor world of Swahili riddles (Kitendawili?! Tega!)

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 28, 2011

Swapping Swahili riddles in Zanzibar is like tying a literary bow around a friendship and pulling tight until the two of you are bound up together in giggles and amazement. Maybe riddles have lost their literary panache in America, but here, there’s something electric and utterly vivid about riddles. Calling out the word kitendawili (riddle) […]

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