Conrad Steenkamp

Femen: From enthusiasm to disenchantment

A wave of popular interest and sympathetic media coverage helped the “radical” Ukrainian feminist movement Femen, known for their topless “attacks” on symbols of the “patriarchy” (religion, “dictators” and pornography) to expand rapidly into Western Europe, the Americas and several Islamic countries. Recently Femen announced triumphantly that “Femen” has topped “feminism” in the Google rankings….

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Happy endings in Afghanistan

“All that has to happen is for the Taliban to lob a couple of hand grenades over the walls of one of the guesthouses,” the security consultant told me. He traced an imaginary trajectory over the roof of the guesthouse into the courtyard with his can of beer. “Then you’ll see how quickly the foreign…

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Apostasy and ducks in Afghanistan

“He’s the man!” Barham, my young Afghan colleague, said one morning as we inched through the godforsaken rush-hour traffic of Kabul, rocking through the frozen potholes. Barham proceeded to tell me that the rather timid-looking young man at the office had a black belt in karate and participated in full-contact fights. “Beneath that shirt of…

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The ancestors strike back

The angry whispering of my ancestors, black, tan and white, refer. They speak about the words of some Deployed Writers in this middle-class space about race and hatred and the Great Juggernaut; the Great One, that Great Socialist of the humble bank account, that is bringing hope to the African poor and anxiety to the…

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Fear in Afghanistan

I had moved to a new guesthouse which looked and felt like a death trap. I had to travel even further to work and the first morning, just to complicate matters further, there was a demonstration at the University of Kabul. We took a circuitous route to the government compound: up and down narrow alleys…

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Trust in Afghanistan

“Don’t trust anybody,” an old consultant told me one morning in the corridor of the government office, sotto voce and all that. “I mean — anybody.” He had been in the country for more than five years and I took note. Each morning I wake up to the sound of a muezzin in the background,…

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Forgiveness in Afghanistan

Kabul airport was a run-down, high-security version of “Bloemfontein international”. It was dotted with military freight planes and helicopters, hidden behind concrete walls and sandbags. One’s baggage is scanned on the way into the country, the officials behind the counter eagerly confiscating the bottles of duty-free booze from Dubai. In the arrivals hall outside I…

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En route to Afghanistan

I was offered a job in Afghanistan. Exactly what kind of work is not at issue. It was everyday stuff, though the context was unusual. Unsurprisingly the family was not impressed and I had to decide whether the job would be too dangerous or not. From the word go I struggled to get a straight…

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‘Don’t call me a kaffir’

Recently, about five-thirty in the afternoon when everybody was stuck in traffic, 5FM exposed its listeners to the following lyrics: Kom hier, kaffir, kom hier! Hoekom het jy nie my kar skoongemaak nie…Bliksem! (white male). Baas, don’t call me a kaffir (black male). Don’t call me a kaffir (choir). Thereafter the word “kaffir” is repeated…

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On attacking Tutu: Bile, heaps of audacity and heart burn

Not too long ago Bishop Tutu (and many others like him) were taking on the moral corruption of apartheid. Particularly Bishop Tutu became a voice of reason and hope at a time that many thought that things would never change. In response the regime deployed the overcoat brigade and propaganda machinery to discredit him (and…

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