Destination: South Africa

Slumming It: Can Slum Tourism Be Done Right?

Dharavi, Mumbai REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe

Global Positioning: On the intersection of place, politics and culture

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A Very International Oscars

Last night’s Oscars ceremony is likely to be up for debate for some time—among the most contentious issues, for me, is the fact that the cast of “High School Musical” got more screen time than most nominees—but one thing is certain: it was the most international Oscars since 2004, when Charlize Theron thanked everyone in South Africa, and the winners from “Lord of the Rings” managed to name-drop just about everyone in New Zealand, too.

In the 2009 edition, there were acceptance speeches smattered with Spanish (Penelope Cruz, for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) and Tamil (A.R. Rahman, the composer for “Slumdog Millionaire”), there were shout-outs to Mumbai (from the assortment of “Slumdog” winners, who took home 8 awards between them), and there were two separate winners from Japan.

My favorite globally-flavored Oscar moments, after the jump:

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How to Prevent a Monkey Attack

monkey REUTERS

Jason Daley explains how to avoid getting bitten, slapped or shoved by an ornery primate.

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Morning Links: Wynn’s Encore, a ‘Sadistic’ Geography Quiz and More

Sesame Street, Global Edition

Photo by u07ch via Flickr (Creative Commons).

When I heard Big Bird and South Africa’s muppet Zikwe talking to NPR about Putumayo Kids’ “Sesame Street Playground” album this weekend, I couldn’t help feeling jealous that I hadn’t grown up hearing songs like “Rubber Duckie” in Mandarin. The 40-year-old dean of all children’s shows now airs in 120 countries, and the new album showcases its worldwide reach.

There are songs from Israel, Palestine, Tanzania, South Africa, France, China, Russia, Mexico, the Netherlands, India and the United States. Concierge is especially fond of the “Pollution Song” from South Africa: a ditty about cleaning up after yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone in the world sang along to that?

Rabbit, Run ... Away

The one-time jail of Nelson Mandela—now one of South Africa’s most popular tourist attractions—is closed for two weeks so authorities can deal with a rampant rabbit population that has overrun the site. According to officials, the rabbits plaguing Robben Island are threatening buildings and vegetation and will be “culled” and subsequently sterilized in coordination with animal rights groups. 

Photo by Brent and MariLynn via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Tosi and Me

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa Photo by Sam Limmer.

During her summer in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Alexis Wolff bought a pet chicken. It purred. It baaked. And when it left her, she discovered something about happiness.

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South Africa: Three Great Books

In Three Great Books, we highlight must-reads for a topic, city or country.
Photo by Victor Geere via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The German philosopher Friedrich Schiller believed that periods of oppression and tyranny produce the greatest works of art; in his words, that “truth and beauty, with their own indestructible vitality, struggle triumphantly to the surface.” In South Africa’s case, at least, he just may have been right. The apartheid era and its aftermath have inspired a wealth of high-quality literature from the likes of Alan Paton, Zakes Mda and Nobel Prize winners Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. Three great books:

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The Wild Story Behind YouTube’s ‘Battle at Kruger’

The Wild Story Behind YouTube’s ‘Battle at Kruger’ Photo by Mister-E via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

The eight-minute amateur video of an extraordinary showdown between buffalo and lions at South Africa's Kruger National Park has become a YouTube phenomenon.

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Suffering and Smiling: Vanity Fair Does Africa

Africa is hot. Why? So we can save it? Frank Bures deconstructs the magazine's latest issue and what it says about Western views of the continent.

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Weighing the Thrills and Ethics of ‘Shark Safaris’

I’m not one to go bungee jumping in New Zealand or canyoning in Costa Rica, yet presenting myself as great white bait in an underwater cage in South Africa has always held a certain appeal. I’ll admit it—I’m obsessed with sharks. And the chance to see the greatest predator of them all in a purportedly safe environment appeals to me in a totally primal way. I have, however, pondered the ethical questions that go along with cage diving. So I was interested to read about Joshua Hammer’s experience in Kleinbaai (two hours from Cape Town) in a detailed piece in the New York Times

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Illuminating ‘Dark Travel’

The "Lonely Planet 2007 Blue List" and Adam Russ's "101 Places Not to Visit" spur Frank Bures to contemplate why travelers don't always want to be delivered from inconvenience.

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‘Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik’: Going Solo Through Africa

From south to north, Marie Javins journeyed alone across the continent. Frank Bures reviews her chronicle of the trip and finds the author a likable travel companion.

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The Enduring Appeal of ‘The Endless Summer’

The classic surf film celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Its popularity lives on, Jim Benning writes, because it's one of the greatest wanderlust-inducing documentaries ever made -- and a potent antidote to winter.

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“The World According to Sesame Street”

Nobody brings the world together like muppets. The new season of the PBS series Independent Lens debuts this week with the documentary The World According to Sesame Street, a look at how the TV show for kids has become a global phenomenon. Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd writes in a stellar review: “It runs in more than 120 countries, mostly in dubbed versions of the original, but in more and more places—beginning as far back as 1972, after an inquiry from Germany—it is being produced locally, retooled for the native audience, with new characters and settings reflecting native culture and concerns.” The documentary focuses on productions of “Sesame Street” in three countries places: Bangladesh, Kosovo and South Africa.

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