“Do not despair. I know you will not despair. You have a manly and proud heart. A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone.” – Things Fall Apart, p21
I will probably write about and long for Ghana until the day I die. Sitting on that sand bar where the Volta River meets the Atlantic Ocean, no noise but waves and wind, I read your book, Achebe, and it made me want to write how you did, to capture the spirit of a people who will never be the same, a dying way of life on an imprisoned continent.
You filled me with wisdom from a time and place I never had the chance to know. And there were the demons too, the demons that haunted the evil forest, the ghosts of the twins left there to save the village from damnation. You brought them all out on that beach, under that baking African sun, for me to roll into a ball like banku, pick off piece by piece, and turn into my own.
If I followed that low, fine coastline, first east and then south, I’d come to your homeland. That gulf, with its green water crisscrossed by skinny fishing boats and fat oil tankers, the pivot around which Africa would turn. The Gulf of Guinea.
Your name is a time and a place to me, one of my best. Your book opened my eyes, cleared my throat, gave me reason to speak.
Chinua Achebe. May you see your grandfathers, and may they smile as they welcome you into their hut, to crack the kola nut, and tell stories of great victories, you pride of the village, pride of Africa.
The second part of my series on futuristic architecture is on Berlin’s Sony Center. Like a moth drawn to a bright light, I wanted to see this structure since Wikipediaing cyberpunk all those years ago.
The dome of the Sony Center glows bright and resembles a funnel, giving it the impression of a psychedelic tornado, frozen in time as it was tearing up Potsdamer Platz. The colours change every 30 seconds, causing people like me who love this stuff to tilt their necks skyward while enjoying a hot coffee in the center’s unheated square.
The Sony Center looks like a background from Blade Runner, or Johnny Mnemonic, and a dark, dystopian future has always interested me. I love Aliens, Terminator, those movies that validate the dark foreboding you feel about what is to come for us all.
Underneath the square there is a maze of tunnels and the U-Bahn isn’t far away. The whole center has the feel of a bunker, while it’s really an upscale shopping mall.
In honour of Sony Centre, I’ve created my first GIF. Watch while listening to trance music really loud to get the full effect.
The train took me from Berlin to Prague and I discovered there why “Bohemian” came to be an adjective for artistic, because any trait you’d imagine being characteristic of a creative person can be found fostered in this city. It’s liberal, inspiring, ambitious and at the same time humble, poor but prosperous. Old and ragged but brimming with ideas that jump out at you every time you turn a corner.
I was walking along the river and found this monument. Couldn’t find any description in English – they don’t babysit tourists, which I respect – so I looked it up on Google Maps (shout out to Google. Bring me up in the search rankings yo).
This is the Krannerova Fountain, built in honour of Francis I, the Holy Roman Emperor. He’s probably most famous for the women in his life, which included his wife, Maria Theresa, and Marie Antoinette, his daughter who was to be executed during the French Revolution.
This monument, almost anonymous to the tourists passing by it, struck me as summing up the city so well. It has such a deep history, but at the same time no pretensions to be anything more than a really cool looking piece of stone.
The figures around its edges symbolize the different trades. There is the soldier, the farmer, the blacksmith, the merchant.
Mediaspree is a massive redevelopment of a part of Berlin that for years has been the home and workspace of artists, tramps, squatters, and general non-conformists to a profit driven culture that has already occupied 99% of western Europe and is quickly infesting the former Eastern Bloc.
In response groups have formed opposing the redevelopment which threatens to destroy that rebellious aspect of Berlin that makes this city unique.
In good Berlin fashion they’ve taken their protest to the walls, drawing protest slogans whereever they can find the space.
My personal favourite is the giant “fuck off mediaspree” message on top of an abandoned building.
They say Berlin is bankrupt. It is in the financial sense, but there are other forms of bankruptcy. A city where the poor and eccentric have to feel ashamed to walk down the street suffers from a moral bankruptcy, one which Berlin must fight to avoid.
Another post about Berlin, because it’s impossible not to write about or photograph this bizarre and exciting city. I took a great tour offered by Alternative Berlin into the heartland of the city’s famous graffiti scene. It was an abandoned trainyard near Warschauer Straße S-Bahn. These old warehouses and vacant lots show Berlin in its most run down, grimy, and industrial. The art is a mix of anti-corporate protest, political commentary and trippy random shit.
Here is a sample