We are seduced by people, individuals’ who achieve extraordinarily. I never thought I would be living the life that I am living now. I am literally living out my dream. I am a poet, and a writer. I was very much in love with the stage as a child. I was four. I started reading when I was four. I was eight when I wrote my first poem. My friends were writing stories about Barbie and Ken. I was quoting Shakespeare.
I took part in plays when I was very young, all through high school.
Lead role in the house play. Editor of the school magazine. I wanted to be a child prodigy, a gifted child for the rest of my life. I always wondered where does it come from? This nature to drive yourself to achieve, achieve, achieve.
Achieve nothing less than perfection. I was perhaps only five years old, or, perhaps even younger than that. I thought to myself later on in life, when I was a teenager and beginning to feel the onslaught of peer pressure. I wasn’t fitting in. I was being bullied. I didn’t have a boyfriend, but I made up for that in my twenties. There was for a time period a complete lack of interest in anything academic, or, social, or, athletic in high school. I consciously chose not to succeed. I told myself I didn’t want to be successful. In my mind, if I wasn’t successful people would like me more. Life didn’t work out like that. I was my father’s daughter. So, I had this depression in high school. It would continue, these spells all through my life.
The depression did two things. It made me go into an almost catatonic state. I did not speak. I did not communicate. I didn’t talk to anyone. Then there was the onset of eating disorders. A phase of anorexia, which turned into bulimia. On again and off again in high school. On again and off again in my early twenties. My body. My physical body became a villain. I couldn’t trust what to eat. So, the bipolar genius is obsessive. But we don’t all have obsessive compulsive disorder. I was, still am a perfectionist. I have to at least write a certain amount of words in a day. I have to write a poem, or, meditative haiku. Not just one but a series of them. Also, people in high school, other students would say, you’re so ahead of your time.
This did not make me feel good. It only made me feel more different.
Is it natural, or spiritual, and why don’t I have it? When I was very young, I would watch a lot of television. Some good shows. Mostly sitcoms of happy families. My family was dysfunctional. I have a brilliant manic-depressive father, who was the principal of a high school in a sub-economic area in the Northern Areas, of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. He worked on his doctorate in philosophy for nearly a decade. Riding up and down to Grahamstown for about on average every two weeks. Sometimes I would go with him. I would play on the hallowed grounds of the university. I’d be about six or seven years old. We’d be the only people of colour there.
Everybody had a degree. Professor Ray Tunmer was my dad’s supervisor.
He’d make coffee before they began to go through the chapters of his thesis my father had worked on the evenings when he came home from work. I’d watch him sleep. Watch the news sitting on his lap. My father was my life. My father was my entire life. My mother, a narcissist, is still an extremely beautiful woman. She had it all. She was also very religious. Experienced the loss of her youngest brother early in life. Her father was a high-functioning alcoholic. I’d walk around as if I owned the place. We’d eat strawberries and drink pineapple juice at a roadside stall. Creativity seems almost second nature to them? It captivates lesser mortals. The average.
But there’s the other side to the creativity, the creative mind of someone who suffers from bipolar. Is it a mood disorder or a brain disorder? Why do I have to take the medication? Why do I feel isolated and rejected from society? Why do creatives live solitary lives it seems? Are they lonely people that have social patterns of self-destructive behaviour? The bipolar genius takes life literally moment by moment. They live fully in the moment. Immerse themselves in it. It is very much an unorthodox life. The life of the creative.
You’re a gifted personality. It never leaves you. There were many, many times I thought that, there it goes. My poetic gift was gone. It wasn’t. It was always there. As a child I had the flair for the dramatic.
Able to memorize poetry written by Emily Dickinson, study and portray Shakespearean characters in monologues from his plays. I still think that bipolar mood disorder doesn’t make me special, but daily there are breakthroughs. Research studies are being done on the brain all over the world. We must take cognisance of the fact that it is a lonely life. Creative people understand loneliness, the solitary life better than anyone else. I think in retrospect it was my mother who wanted to be up there, under the spotlight, on the stage. For me, sometimes everything came a little too easy, a little too effortlessly. Being different when you’re young and gifted, when you’re a child prodigy doesn’t make you popular. It makes you stand out.
When you are a child you do not want to stand out in this way, you just want to go to the park, play on the swings (but of course, every single thing that I did with my younger siblings, also gifted, was a competition). Genius is unafraid to challenge the status quo. Genius is not frightened of asking questions about the world around them.
What they can do with their imagination and creativity far outweighs what the average person can do. I’ve asked myself that eternal question, “Why me?” I’m a writer and a poet. Some days it feels as if, it’s even acknowledged deep inside of me, as if I was born to do it.
You hear this all the time. I was born to do this. I was born to imagine, to create, to progress in life using these gifts, but my creativity is genetic.
My father is a brilliant educationalist. He is the most selfless, giving and gifted person I know. He grew up in a time when there was a great deal of alcoholism, addiction around him, poverty and the promulgation of the Group Areas Act, I think what people today refer to as the forced removals. In those days you could not have relationships’ and marry across the colour line. It was the law in South Africa. The fact of suicide. People have committed suicide in our family. Mental illness is in our genetic makeup. He has six degrees. He studied at London University, he went to Rhodes in Grahamstown, he went to the University of the Western Cape (Bush
University) during apartheid. He wanted to become a medical doctor, but his family was poor. His mother was a seamstress, cleaned houses, and churches and took in washing.
His older sister had to go to work, leave school and put her brothers through university. He is also creative. He is a writer. Has written pamphlets on mental wellness. He has co-authored books on historical non-fiction. He was moody. Still is. But now I know that it is simply an aspect of not only creativity, not only an aspect of genius. Every knows who my father is in the Northern Areas. A few months ago, they named a building after him in Port Elizabeth. This is our normal.
Writing books, engaging in discussions about politics, relationships, life into the early hours of the morning, watching documentaries on apartheid, and me listening to my father talk about the past. About how he heard Ruth First speak.
This was at an African National Congress conference in London. How he was recruited into a subversive organization when he sixteen years of age, along with his brother. How his comrade Dulcie September was assassinated. This is how we live. We live to understand our brain.
How our brain functions. The deeper levels of imagination that only highly intelligent people have access to. It is not easy to have an above-average intelligence. People are always testing you. If you are creative, highly intelligent, have bipolar, or a recurring (see chronic here) mental illness. You don’t write books to make money. To get on the New York Times Bestseller list, or, to become a national bestseller. I write books that will move a person, because that is all that it takes. Just one person is all it takes to start a movement.
That one person can influence other people, communities, learners in every sphere of life (like my dad did). That’s why I write. My father devoted his entire life to learning everything he could about the brain. Philosophy, education, psychology, mental aberrations’, physical abnormalities, and the effect that it had on the mind. That’s why my father writes. In our world, we’re normal. In the outside world, we’re outsiders. But would you rather want to change the world, the way that people think and move and exist and evolve in their reality, or would you rather be average. Coast through life. Marry, have a family. I’m here today to tell you that there’s a kind of nobility in that. Those are noble ideals too. To be follower, or disciple. What you are doing to the utmost of your ability, God sees that.
Research into gender-bias and class, the Khoi, the grief of the mulatto
Other races in South Africa see us as clowns. They have always seen us as clowns or interlopers and whose fault is that? Again, and again society has to be blamed. Wars and history. Mothers, siblings and offspring. They do not think of themselves as being a part of humanity, of building humanity or their own potential. They live in a world of their own making and in this realm or sphere they practice ultra-violence, aggression, and brutality. Sexual violence is nothing to them. Rape is a certain means of pleasure-fulfillment. It is an annihilation on the victim but we also have to look at it as a symbol.
A symbol of submission. The victim is made to be submissive and humiliated. Secluded from the avenues of interpretations and ceremonies. Religious ceremonies, rituals between two consenting adults and a water baptism for the child or children that is born from that union.
On the under surface we also have to look at the mental health of the mulatto. Illness and disability in the Northern Areas. It has become an intricate yet underground culture amongst those who live on welfare or social grants in South Africa. Rape is a symbol. It supports a historical pattern of mental illness. It is an example of phenomenology. I spent my childhood, my holidays at the sea and an adolescence avoiding it. These are the echoes of a scholarship girl.
An ambitious girl readying herself for the world of academia and education. Why is it that this is what I hunger for? What do the Cleopatra’s and Sappho’s of the world hunger for?
And what the next girl hungers for in line is a sexual relationship.
She is in search of intimacy in all the wrong places. In their search for pleasure they will find themselves amidst instant gratification.
Satisfaction. Wish-fulfillment is the name of the game. The sexual transaction and pornography. We are talking here about a complete annihilation of heirs. Sons and daughters. Mulattos every one. Born from interracial relationships. Born out of wedlock. Here, we are not talking about the cultured, those who read with a passion, have a library at home or a study full of books, follow their survival guide according to the laws of society, the elite, the moneyed with their investments tucked away safely in the bank, whose children follow their dreams and fulfill their goals at tertiary institutions.
The only wait for the intelligent girl child is education. Families are now being replaced by friends. Addiction is like politics. You either take to it like water off a duck’s back or you watch people from afar sitting on the park bench like a vagrant and watch the angelic shine of the faces of children as they feed the ducks with their mothers and their nannies close at hand. Young males like that blame God. They think to themselves that they were not deserving of the world that they live in today.
Human nature will always be and is exploratory. A manifesto of sorts.
The drug addict, the male has this inner life but he has an outer world too. He is not as wise as he thinks he is. There is the suffering of the world in his heart. There is discontent too. He does not believe that life is short. That the distance from here to there is death and life. A continuum. And now we come to religion, to the church, to the vindication of the rights of the church. A journal filled with common sense written by sinners. These mulattos do not think they can change the world. How very wrong they are. How very wrong these princes are. They can be pioneers. They can be rebels.
They may even be angels but somehow along the tracks while they were sitting in their school benches these young men were lost. All I ask is when are these prodigal sons returning home, if ever. When will they choose the pilgrimage, the seat of the soul, the fact that charity begins at home, the influence of mentors, the self-help of motivational speakers? I am afraid if they do not want to be lectured to then there is unfortunately no other easy way of saving these addicts from their own addictions.
The youth who is an addict has found a way out. Escapism. The exit from his problems, the poverty in the wilderness and the wasteland he finds himself in. You see I think that they feel powerful in the brotherhood, in the gang, in the ‘family mode’ so to speak. They did not have mothers. They did not have mothering. They did not have fathers and if they did their fathers were absent fathers who led them down the same garden path they were at. Humiliating their wives, domestic violence, alcoholism, womanising, addiction, violent brawls, death but we must never forget that all of the people who are responsible for murder, for the violence outside and inside of taverns, the explosion of the Northern Areas gang lands are also in some ways vulnerable. More vulnerable than you and I think. It is a pollution of the mind. Nothing, no positive outcome can grow there and if that is the case then what does the future hold for the mulatto.
Light eyes. Fair skinned. Skin brown like the texture of sun. Straight hair.
What science does not tell us is that our gene pool is a primordial soup. Mankind originated from Africa but what has happened to the mulatto is this. Our ladders of chromosomes are responsible for knitting our brain cells together, and our future, our present does not determine the past. The mistakes we made. Forgiveness. Feminism.
The female writer, thinker and intellectual is no match for the male counterpart and vice versa. I feel I have to talk about feminism again because the female mulatto is exploited in South Africa. I can only talk here of my own experience. She knows not of any other life. Sex for her makes her the alpha female amongst her clique. Her group of friends. It makes her popular but far too late she realizes she has become popular for all the wrong reasons. She is ‘easy’. She is already lost once she has walked across the threshold been folded into the arms of an older male figure, a father figure or a fumbling boy and lost her virginity. As soon as she falls pregnant the boy or man denies that he is the father and what is she left with but shame but now she has something to love. Now she has a family, intimate relations with a new-born. She is now a mother and nobody can take that away from her.
For the Coloured/mulatto girl, our flower, our dark child, she uses her sexuality as a prop. She thinks to herself in the face of the struggles she endured as a girl child, a young adult, an adolescent in high school that now all her desires will come true with the guy of her dreams but of course that is not the case. Many girls who find themselves in this situation go on to have a string of dead-end relationships in which sometimes children are born from different fathers. You might think to yourself these young men and women just cannot seem to help themselves. Between the young woman and her mother there is often animosity and the origins of jealousy.
So now I turn to history. I turn to the falling of the Berlin wall. I turn to the holocaust. What does that have to do with a marijuana smoking youth, with his second child on the way with a different mother you may ask? It has everything to do with emancipation.
Oppression in the worst possible way when you have to have an unregistered gun or access to one. Women are emotional creatures. Men are violent by nature. Throughout history the mulatto was a slave.
Throughout modern life the mulatto is still a slave even though she is educated. Even if she went to university. Even if she attends church and takes Holy Communion. She is a slave because there has never been one woman amongst her lot that has been a philosopher. There are teachers, yes. There are mentors, yes. There are church women, yes.
But they are also slaves. If the mulatto has no White equal then she is still a slave with the mentality with a slave.
The men in the brotherhood of the gang almost have a kind of religious life. There is the initiation where they have to prove themselves. Of course, it will mark a turning point in a young man’s life if he is accepted into a gang. For the young men of the Northern Areas to be a gangster is the only way of life that they know. I do not know if that is sad. I know what it is to suffer but I cannot imagine their suffering. I have suffered from clinical depression but I cannot imagine what their home life, their family life must be about. I often wonder how they think always trigger happy and this perplexes me because we do not have to live in a world like this.
So, researchers must study the phenomena that exists not only in the sub-economic areas and suburbs of the marginalized and disadvantaged mulatto. The youth live in an oppressed state of mind, state of being, and a state of flux. It is essential to see, to discuss, to debate why this is still dominating after centuries, after generations, after the referendum, the Rainbow Nation and the African Renaissance until we become experts at exposure. Who are the victims here? The native who was taught English in a mission school. The Black girl who was raped by her slave owner. Exposing the invisible chains, the walls of punishment we must begin to see it with insight.
South African gang film Four Corners
We are being erased into the background as if we are extras on a film set. We must begin to communicate the threads of the entire rape of a near wasted generation. Wasted by tik and marijuana. If they are not wise (where do they get the wisdom from), if they do not have the courage to pray and to change the circumstances that they are living in (if they were not taught those values) what will happen to the mulatto a century from now?
Coloured street gangs do believe in cultural unity. They call the gang a brotherhood. They call the brotherhood a family. Blood is thicker than water. These are dangerous life studies. There is a life science but little literature on what the promulgation of the Group Areas Act, the history of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa has had on stories, on investment in, on the self-discovery of the mulatto. He is not White. He is not Black. It is too late to develop positive Coloured youth because they are so far removed from the fabric that makes up the modern world, and that marks them with the psychological framework of the experiment of a pilgrim because in a way we are all pilgrims. We are all searching for something that will intoxicate us with life.
We want to see all living things, all animals with their own intuition and sensibility. Not crime or criminal tendencies. Not addictions.
Addictions to sex, pornography, drugs and alcoholism. The girls are sex machines bringing children into the world when they are hardly equipped to deal with family life or raising children with echoes of values and norms. Belief systems.
Not only do they exhibit psychopathic tendencies, but they also display a racial tendency towards Black youth and Black women. Black people in general. It is really destruction amongst these self-saboteurs at its most basic level. The grassroots level. The only people who will survive are the middle classes. The elite. The educated. If you fit into any one of those classes then you are home free in a sense. Home is a dirty secret but it makes the gangster saintly amongst his peers. Coloured youth are on a mission to destroy themselves, their families, the people that they love, admire, worship. They are even on a mission to kill, to maim to murder. This is no ghost story.
There have always been gangs. That is simply nothing new.
Heartbreaking stories of utter abuse at the hands of adults who in retrospect had to devote themselves to family life and their children but there have also been Coloured men and woman, great thinkers, leading intellectuals who are now fostering innovative theories about families who live in poverty. Theories about sexuality. Spiritual poverty.
In the end, at some point in our lives we all experienced racism. We were all on the receiving end of it or we gave it out. If you are an educated mulatto you have got it made in a sense. You can be philanthropic in your endeavours. You can help those who cannot help themselves. If we lived in a perfect world everybody would have the same opportunities, the same choices, challenges, obstacles facing them, decisions to be made no matter what the colour of their skin was, the same education (does this mean that everyone would be educated and brilliant. Intelligent and lucky.)
Opening up the Pandora’s Box of the drug addict and all you will come to witness is nothing but a skeleton fused with self-portraits of self-hatred, selfishness and ego wasting away. Looking nothing at all like their real age. Unfortunately, we live in a permissive society.
It is a society that gives us the go ahead or the permission if you will to go ahead and do anything with your life.
The world will never get sick of prettiness. Men will never get tired of it like they get tired of gender and class taking over the world or being lectured on it. Men never get tired of taking the inexperienced virgin to bed. That love-affair. I say this again. That there is an invisible press out there. An invisible propaganda. Visionaries who have and will always show us the right way. Entertainment has and will always show us the wrong way.
I do not understand the sexuality of young girls. How they promote themselves in the workplace. The relationships they have with older male figures, father figures. It is as if they draw up a sacred contract. The man has all the common sense. The girl dreams and meditates of her prince. In the end everything is outweighed, destroyed and the girl returns to her mother in the heartland of the city she found herself in months before. If there is a baby in the works, she will give birth to the baby and fall in love with the child to the extent that she will keep it, raise it. But does she have the oomph? Does she have the will and the drive to raise a child on her own or will she succumb to silence, to isolation and to rejection from her peers? Despair, hardship, loneliness?
She was not the wise one in the relationship but it will be months before she realises this. It was the man with all of his common sense who was the wise one and who knew how things in the end would naturally turn out. The mulatto girl has a disembodied frame but she will with an intensity raise her child. Her problems will become part of the child’s consciousness and something usually will be deformed.
Mannerisms will be abnormal as the child grows older if there is no father figure. Etiquette will be a castle in the sky. The boy will grow up to be a rough through no fault of his own. It once again depends on the mothering, on the family structure. If there is a close-knit family structure. A nuclear family or a blended family of half-brothers and half-sisters and a stepfamily perhaps the child will be saved. Perhaps.
After the uprising of the riots in the Northern Areas where shops were looted and badly damaged. When people lost their lives, family members, businesses nobody was discriminated against in the Coloured sub-economic areas. Was there a Third Force involved as people would like us to be inclined to be believed? Was the special branch involved? These are facts that ordinary people will never know. The Democratic Alliance has a foothold in the Eastern Cape now which is now one of the worst off provinces in South Africa. If you want to believe that violence and murder was the order of the day those days of the riots then violence and murder, looting was the order of the day. I see the territory on the fringe that is before me. The districts. The suburbs. The life and times of the elite who live behind their high walls, their electric fences, their security fences and dogs in White suburbia. It comes to me in heightened frequencies.
Violence is reality in post-apartheid South Africa but it is also surreal. It is also a hallucination in Technicolor.
Otherwise violence is an excellent metamorphosis when studied alongside individuals who committed themselves against fighting in the struggle against apartheid. I cannot give it all up to my imagination anymore. I must believe like Anne Frank that there is some good in people and some bad but that there is good in them also. There was a death, many deaths and bodies lying in the street. I cannot account for the names and the faces that have crossed over to the hereafter.
We cannot all be monks and nuns. Violence tends to disrupt the order in society, cause maladjusted behaviour, in the end what is its purpose, what meaning does it give life?
In this world, like I have said before we cannot all be monks and nuns but we can write. We can write poetry about the horrors of life, how terrifying it still is to live in a racist post-apartheid South Africa. If we write we can diminish and erase somewhat of the melody and the blankness of the ultra-violence of the minor earth and the major sky. We will never forget about burying the bodies of the men and women who lost their lives in the riots like we can never forget the struggle. The camps in Tanzania. Conversations and moods are spiritual and bipolar in a sense when people talk about old-fashioned days. We are haunted by those days. We want to relive them because for us there was some vitality at flying solo before marrying, before the school lessons and homework of children, the milk of human kindness and tenderness.
Now I am reminded of Leo Tolstoy finding the kingdom of God within himself, writing his letters to Ghandi, writing his confessions and finally finding peace within himself. I am also reminded of Hemingway, the writer driving ambulances during the war. River Phoenix, the actor stumbling out of a club in the early hours of the morning, blinded by alcohol, his veins pumped full of barbiturates. He later died of a drug overdose. F. Scot Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby drinking bourbon.
Virginia Woolf’s waves, Lily Briscoe, and Mrs Ramsay. You may ask yourself what does Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Venus and Serena Williams, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Jean Rhys, Ford Maddox Ford have to do with gangs and gangsters. Ganglands and guns going off in the middle of the night. They make me forget. They make me forget about the children I will never have, that I have not picked up a racket in over ten summers.
They remind me that there is truth and beauty and in the final analysis that there will always be room for psychoanalysis in the world.
The young Northern Areas survivor of the aftermath of the forced removals
The first scene represents a family is sitting around a table, early morning that has the remnants of a breakfast meal on it. It is slim pickings, a simple meal of bread and coffee, hot porridge. The mother and the daughters are clearing the table while the young men sit around the table. The father smokes a cigarette. The men are all sitting in their socks. Their shoes are lined up at the door ready to be shined. Then the mother irons the father’s shirt. Everyone is acting as if it just an ordinary day but the world has changed. There has been no talk of community and neighbourly love for months now.
Instead, it has be substituted by threads of evil, pockets filled with them. In the background, I can hear voices, shouts getting louder and louder, angrier, more and more fearful of attack, the foreshadowing of terror. I have never taken the time to believe in you, but I’m going to pray because I’m still here. We’re just ordinary people after all.
I can hear the sound of breaking things, a police whistle. So, we waited in our house, thinking, imagining of what was happening in the streets, not thinking, yet lost in our thoughts, slowly going out of my mind. Some people packed up their belongings crying, wailing, and screaming. I do not think I will ever forget that, the beauty in that aggression, that terrifying brutality, that terror. I sat watching it all unfold in front of my eyes in disbelief. I felt pensive. It fluttered deep down before it perched in my mind’s eye. People are surrendering to the blindfolded reality of it all, the finality, and the awful, awful decision that they are cut up about leaving their homes. South End looks like a ghost town at the end of the day. People are selling out charmed by the new lifestyle, new plots in the desolate Northern Areas. The words are there, with a racist forked-tongue they are waiting for freedom, they are waiting for us with bulldozers.
Just this morning we breakfasted on warm porridge. Now our table and chairs are fastened to a cart. I collected myself. How do you deal with the unlikely dilemma of racism? It does not come with a star that says you are a Jew, the swastika. I did not know how the day would unfold. Danfred made a joke out of it. ‘They’ll be coming down the street when they come.’ My mother’s face fell. There was no expression on my father’s face as he buttoned his shirt and tucked his white vest in. May was cold. Jennifer, the youngest, the baby of the family, our mother’s favourite washed the dishes. Her hair fell across her face. I just felt emotionally uninvolved from the removals, composed yet as if it was happening to a division of a tribe in another country. Pack of wolves, they are all barbarians with hate in their hearts. We will triumph. We will triumph in the end. One day we will have a black president. One day the majority will rule.
Ferdinand cleared his throat as he walked past me, his eyes bloodshot from drinking sweet wine with his friends late into the night. Ari (short for Aristotle) smoked a cigarette outside. ‘Hey, Romeo, be the lookout. Warn me if mummy or daddy comes out.’ I just nodded my head like a robot. He did not care. He didn’t care about the ‘forced removals’, ‘the Northern Areas’, about not looking back in anger and getting married was the last thing on his mind. He did not have a teacher’s certificate. All he cared about was girls. God, my brother was mad about them. He would go on and on about his latest. ‘She has such soft, angelic skin with a tan. She looked like an angel, had angel’s eyes. You could tell she had never been with a man before because it took some coaching for her to hold my hand. She tells me her brothers’ thinks I am a daft punk-act. Saint, or disciple, sinner or winner. Obedience to the cause, or do we submit to this rehearsal of death.
She should not be seen with me. She calls me a gentle man; I think it’s because I’m so gentle with her.’ The day the world as we knew it ended. The day I knew I had to get my act together I smelled it, the concrete, the steam coming off asphalt, the energy in the air was complex, complicated, a circle of the badly drawn something to talk about meeting foot traffic, thoughts, seeing the red substance of anger. Brick by brick, complete houses being smashed to tiny bits of rubble, windows shattering into pieces, glints, and I wondered to myself how the sky would look that night. Enough, I said, enough but it did not come to an abrupt end. A process (nothing intellectual about it, just the dynamo of pure unstoppable evil) progressed, that brainwashed people. It was a titanic movement, apartheid that seduced the people in power, their ego, their vanity and consciousness and let go of our ancestors, surrendered them.
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