Litro #120: Africa

(c) Carolina Odman

Litro #120: Africa — Letter from the Editor

How much do you know about Africa? We tend to speak of it as though it’s one giant, inscrutable territory, and yet Africa contains 54 different countries, all with different cultures, geographies, and people, amongst which are some of the world’s fastest growing economies. For many of us, the only time Africa appears on our radar is when it’s in the news—Somali Pirates, KONY 2012, Darfur, email scammers, the World Cup. Most of our references are sadly negative. Read more →
by Dan Patterson

Grass Wars

The herd wakes me, hungry again and baying for grass, green and juicy. They huddle round the basher, lowing and groaning. Their rolling backsides butt up against the bent branches. Their snot-dripping snouts nose into gaps between the hide-roof and branch-walls. One snorts right over my face. Hot, stale breath clouds over me; spittle rains onto my cheeks and into my eyes. I sit up and rub my face on my robe. Next to me Shahuri continues to snore. It’s his turn to do the milking. Read more →

Harare Revisited

Harare was always a plum to me, a gorgeous memory; blue-black, full and ripe, luxurious and sweet to the tongue. I recall a veranda fringed city, snug with waiters, sunk into earth that feels hot and old. A place punctured with plentiful, crystalline pools. Impressive, near utopian. Of all the things that my unconscious cast away, its grip on Harare, that boyhood visit, never slackened. Read more →
From Start Journal

A New Focus on Africa

It was 3:30 in the afternoon sometime in 2010 and I was just about to leave for Heathrow Terminal 5—virtually my second home—to catch a flight to Mozambique when my daughter loudly inquired, “Daddy, is everybody poor in Africa?”I decided the taxi outside could wait for at least few more minutes. “Why are you asking such a question my dear?” Her answer—“Because every time I see Africa on telly they don’t have nice clothes and their houses are really small and the children are all sad.” Read more →

Extract from Tomorrow I’ll be Twenty

I imagine her as a young girl, turning boys’ heads. Somehow she manages to forget I’m there, and imagine it’s someone different listening to her, her eyes are somewhere above my head, not focussed on me directly. She’s talking to someone who doesn’t exist, and I think: ‘That often happens, it happens all the time, grown ups are all like that, they’re always talking to people from their past. I’m still too little to have a past, that’s why I can’t talk to myself, pretending to talk to someone invisible.’ Read more →


Menengai, Alex our guide tells us, means “the place where God is not”. It is a word from the Masai, the great African tribe that traverse the land with their cattle, naming the places as they find them. Looking down into the vast green caldera, all that remains of the immense volcano, I can imagine the handsomely dressed Masai, their scarlet cloaks vivid in the foliage, and their great herds. A desultory drift of smoke catches Nick’s eye. Read more →