History Historical Badasses

Gertrude Stein, the queer feminist at the centre of the art movement

I first encountered Gertrude Stein through her avant-garde poetry in Tender Buttons, an evocative series of short poems that forced writing to its breaking point with sentences like: “Dirty is yellow. A sign of more is not mentioned.” I met her blindly, only through her words, yet I already fell for her eccentricity. I knew there was something wonderful behind the mind that put down on paper the bold tongue-in-cheek yet unbelievably serious statement, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”. I just had to explore her art further. So I began scouring old journals and artist profiles to learn more about her. 

Little did I know that the radical art Stein created could almost be rivaled by the art that she nurtured in the artists around her. I found multiple sources that called her the ‘mother’ of modernism, but after getting to know more about her, I am sure that she would scoff at such a title. After all, she left the United States in 1903 to flee the pressures of gender norms. She was also bored with medical school and seeking an outlet to express her eccentric point of view, she settled down in Paris, where she intended to pursue a life free from heteronormativity. She opened a salon in her home for the world’s creative mind, including some of the world-renowned names such as Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. She was the voice of this ‘Lost Generation, the group of American expatriates flocking to Paris– and even coined the term.

The way I see it, she brought together these esteemed artists and in many ways, elevated them through her no-nonsense critique of their work. I had always internalized that a woman inspiring other artists (typically male artists) was a muse. That term is loaded, as there were often sexualized or romanticized elements typically tied to a muse. Instead, what I admired about Stein was that she was a mentor to the ‘greats’. I see her as a woman that had an undeniable presence in her time, respected by those around her. 

Nothing about her was conventional and she embraced her own strangeness, something that drew me to her further. Stein deserves the title of a trailblazer of the modernist period and of queer identity at the time. Stein’s essay Miss Furr and Miss Skeene were among the first story to be published about homosexual revelation, containing the first noted use of the word “gay” in published works to refer to same-sex relationships. She also hosted one of the first avant-garde exhibitions in the United States, funding it with the money she collected from her art dealerships. I have no doubt that every piece of art in the period has her fingerprint.

And she didn’t hesitate to acknowledge her accomplishments either. Stein didn’t believe that women must be modest, proudly proclaiming “I have been the creative literary mind of the century.” She never sold herself short, a habit I found myself doing as I presented my own poetry or other writing. I was still working with my own feelings of inferiority, belittling my stories as ‘just’ relevant to female-identifying communities. While she wrote about women and her partner, she didn’t restrict herself to writing women’s stories. I found it so refreshing to see her unabashed pride, as it reminded me to take hold of my own achievements and to be confident. No matter how unconventionally and ‘weirdly’ I experimented with my creativity, I learned that I could (and should) still demand to be taken seriously. 

Regardless of all this, I don’t think she should be idolized. I often like to give powerful women in difficult situations the benefit of the doubt, as do most of the historians and writers that grapple with creating a retrospective of Stein’s life. I witnessed a trend in the way that they wrote about her, that she was ensuring her safety as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France by making these questionable alliances with Nazi figures. As much as I respect her as a feminist and as the backbone of the Lost Generation of artists, I cannot excuse her political affiliations and ironic, confusing pro-Nazi expressions. 

At the end of it all, Stein didn’t strive to be accepted or allow herself to be molded by the society around her. She carved her own place into history and I believe it is important to commemorate it, lest she is lost in the shadows of her male counterparts. As a woman in the art world, looking at Stein as an example liberates me and allows me to embrace subversive expressions of creativity. 

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Health News Coronavirus The World

The Covid-19 vaccine patent divide is yet another example of hinderance from the Global North countries

If there’s any word to describe COVID-19, it’s “unpredictable.”

It’s like a hydra; cut off one head and two more grow back. Every time researchers think they’ve got it figured out, we get new variants each with their own symptoms and varying severity. 

With the multiple vaccines having been created by different countries, there’s a small glimmer of hope for the world to break free from the hold this virus has on us, physically and mentally. 

Research indicates that the vaccines are 90% effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and one dose of a vaccine can halve transmission among people. While it’s easy to be hyper focused on the 10% chance that you could still fall sick, it’s quite literally the best shot at staying safe.

India is currently going through a horrible second wave of COVID-19, where the last recorded tally was 403,405 cases on the 8th of May. Various cities are experiencing a severe shortage of oxygen supplies and hospital beds, showing a harrowing picture of patients collapsing and even dying in the streets with their loved ones are helplessly looking for anything that could save them.

However, despite knowing the extent of what is happening in India and having the means to help, the US has placed a ban on the export of materials that could help Indian pharmaceuticals to create their own supply of vaccines. Denying India’s request to lift the ban, spokesperson Ned Price said that the “needs of the Americans should be looked at first.

So much for celebrating having a vice president with South Asian roots.

Maya Rudolph's Best Kamala Harris Sketches On SNL
[Image Description: a gif of Maya Rudolph playing Kamala Harris sipping on a drink while wearing sunglasses] Source: Buzzfeed
The ban and the US’ refusal to lift it had several people pointing out the disparaging patent divide for COVID-19 vaccine materials among countries all around the world, with particular reference to this map:

How the US can solve the global vaccine shortfall – Progressive Policy Institute
[Image Description: a world map that shows which countries support (coloured yellow), oppose (coloured pink), and are undecided (coloured blue) on the patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccine materials] Source: Progressive Policy Institute
Having the patent would allow the countries’ local drugmakers to manufacture vaccines for themselves, provided they have the materials. As you can see in this map, the countries that oppose the patent waiver are those who are part of the Global North (the richest and most industrialised countries in the world), including the US, Japan, Australia, and Europe. 

The countries that support the patent waiver are mostly countries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and parts of South America. Countries that are generally part of the Global South (normally known as the Third World countries).

What Is The Global South? - WorldAtlas
[Image Description: a graphic showing the Global North countries as a happy figure standing upright, and the Global South countries as a distressed figure hanging on] Source: World Atlas
Even China, which has developed its own vaccine Sinopharm, stands in support of the patent waver. The country has even stepped in to provide its vaccine rollout to India in its time of need.

Several people took to social media to point out this disparity between the privileged and the under-privileged.

This isn’t the first time the Global South has had to suffer the worst of an ongoing situation; the North has been known to continuously profit off of resources that the South has, while preventing any form of economic development to happen in the latter. In what is known as Dependency, the North keeps the South dependent on its finances and economic prowess while at the same time, keeping them from their own personal development. 

The scales will always be tipped in the North’s favour without ever achieving balance, and has been so long after the South was decolonised.

By obstructing the patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccine materials and banning their export, countries like the US are preventing countries like India from developing their own vaccines that would enable them to break free from their respective waves of the pandemic. 

Big Pharma has stated that they are doing this to prevent China and Russia (US’ global rivals) from exploiting platforms that could be used for other vaccines.

So basically, they’re saying lifting the ban could lead to more lives being saved. Mass recovery would mean the countries would no longer need US’ and other Global North countries’ support to get by. The US wouldn’t want that now, would it.

With the US, Japan, Australia and European countries moving up with their respective vaccine rollouts and gradually easing their lockdown restrictions, India and other countries in the global South are left in turmoil. At this rate, COVID-19 could become another disease that is ravaging Third World countries while the rest stay safe and vaccinated against it.

Disappointed but not surprised to see that hierarchy and profit triumph humanity when it comes to global health.


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Tips & Tricks Food & Drinks

15 times you realized being vegan didn’t suck

Veganism has been around for ages.

Ancient Indian and Eastern Mediterranean societies partook in the lifestyle choice that avoids all product that comes from animals. Veganism was even mentioned by Pythagoras in 500BC. Five centuries ago African culture also was largely dependent on the traditional foods of leaves, roots, tubers, corns, rhizomes, bulbs, seeds, buds, shoots, stems, pods or edible flowers.

In Western society, Veganism has only caught on recently.  2019 has been dubbed the Year of the Vegan, so here are 15 reasons why being vegan is great.

 1. Ben and Jerry have their own vegan flavors. 

A white man lying down on a bed, licks two ice creams in his hands.
[Image Description: A man lying down on a bed, licks two ice creams in his hands.] Via GIPHY
Ben and Jerry just released 12 non-dairy flavors. Should we be excited?

I’m too busy knee-deep in almond milk creamy loveliness to remember what we’re talking about…

2.  Apparently, it’s mainstream now

White boy looks up at a white man and smiles
[Image Description: Boy looks up at a man and smiles ] Via GIPHY
Gone are the days when people just thought you were crazy.

Now, people think you and all the hipsters are crazy. You can now eat your plant-based meal in peace without having to explain that, no you don’t miss meat and, yes, you can eat chocolate.

 3. …though you still have to have answers prepared just in case. 

A white girl in an orange outfit sits down onto the floor holding a black gun.
[Image Description: A girl in an orange outfit sits down onto the floor holding a black gun.] via GIPHY
People understand the concept but not everyone is willing to let it go. It’s good to brush up on facts just in case someone tries to argue you out of your beliefs.

4. Oreos are vegan.

Young white girl in a yellow coat, clutches a candyfloss. She is grinning.
[Image description: Young girl in a yellow coat, clutches a candyfloss. She is grinning.] Via GIPHY by Demic

5. Instagram is filled with supportive pages with pictures of grateful animals. 

A baby calf dances and plays happily in a field.
[Image Description: A baby calf dances and plays happily in a field.] Via GIPHY
Nothing says ‘thank you’ better than a meme that claims this calf is smiling because you chose not to eat it. You can go on with the rest of your day on cloud nine after a few of these life-affirming posts.

6. Fake leather is infinitely cheaper than real leather. 

A bald black man lifts up the bracelet of a black woman to inspect it.
[Image Description: A  man lifts up the bracelet of a woman to inspect it.] Via GIPHY
The animals may be happy, the planet may be happy, but what’s most effective is seeing how happy our wallets are. Fake leather has the same feel with less of the excess blood.

7. KFC now has vegan options.

A white man comes out of his office and follows a group of panicking employees.
[Image Description: A man comes out of his office and follows a group of panicking] Via GIPHY
Welcome aboard, Colonel.

8. Pizza hut and Pizza Express now do vegan cheese. 

A white man in a brown suit holds his hands up in the air, celebrating.
[Image Description: A man in a brown suit holds his hands up in the air, celebrating.] Via GIPHY
Family dinners are now less awkward because there’s finally something you can eat – wherever you go.

9. No one’s expecting you to be perfect.

A white man in a cowboy hat smiles in the sun.
[Image Description: A man in a cowboy hat smiles in the sun. ] via GIPHY
Let’s be honest, people who eat meat used to accuse you of ‘being up on your high horse’ or a goody-two-shoes. With the documentaries and material available, more and more people have educated themselves on why people are vegan.

You can slip up and not get battered for it.

10. Netflix has your back 

A blue mermaid with a purple tail lies under the sea, watching NETFLIX off a laptop.
[Image Description: A mermaid with a purple tail lies under the sea, watching NETFLIX off a laptop.] Via GIPHY
If you want to remind yourself why you passed up on the Hershey’s chocolate you can turn to any one of a number of Netflix documentaries. What The Health, Earthlings, and Cowspiracy are just three that will boost you up again on your mission.

11. Greta Thunberg. 

Two white men bow down to someone. One has long blonde hair, the other a black baseball cap.
[Image Description: Two men bow down to someone. One has long blonde hair, the other a black baseball cap.] Via GIPHY
With spokespeople as young as Thunberg taking to the streets, suddenly veganism seems a lot more doable. If she can do it, I bloody well can!

12. Beyond Meat exists.

A yellow bear ties a bib around his neck, and then picks up his cutlery excitedly.
[Image Description: Winnie the Pooh ties a bib around his neck, and then picks up his cutlery excitedly.] Via GIPHY
This brand is revolutionary. Their burgers sizzle and fry, and melt in your mouth ‘apparently’ like the real thing. All I know is they’re the best goddam vegan burgers I’ve ever tasted.

13. Benedict Cumberbatch was just voted PETA’s most beautiful vegan.

A white man in a suit sits down and talks to someone
[Image Description: A man in a suit sits down and talks to someone] via GIPHY
Mmmm. Not only do we get to look great doing it, but we get to look at others who look great doing it.

14. There are hundreds of ‘vegan challenges’ if you’re not quite ready to commit. Beyonce created one. 

A white man in a suit jumps up and down and claps his hands
[Image Description: A man in a suit jumps up and down and claps his hands] Via GIPHY
That’s right, the queen of pop created her own 22 day Vegan challenge. Now all you single ladies can put a fake chicken ‘wing’ on it (sorrynotsorry).

15. Wagamama are cranking up their vegan options. 

A white man in a yellow polo neck top brings down his hand and says, 'Yes'.
[Image Description: A man in a yellow polo neck top brings down his hand and says, ‘Yes’.] via GIPHY
This International brand just paired up with vegan chef Gaz Oakley to create an awesome new menu. With fake eggs made of coconut cream and sriracha, the new dishes are definitely something to be excited about.

Whatever reason we’re pursuing veganism, 2019 has our back.  Vegan ice cream party anyone?

Food & Drinks Now + Beyond

Covering Lahore, a day in the life of Community Fellow Arsh Khan

For this edition, we’re writing from Lahore, Pakistan.

Tech-Nomad Stop: Jade Cafe by ChinaTown

Let me start this piece by confessing my undying love for discovering new places.

My independence as a young Pakistani woman has been on a gradual but nonetheless wonderful increase over some years, resulting in me taking advantage of any given opportunity to explore the metropolitan liveliness and, of course, the new culinary delights that the city of Lahore has to offer. It was on an escapade with some university friends, searching for a place to work AWAY from the academic hell of university life, that I discovered Jade Cafe.

Jade cafe logo
Source: Google Images

Fully known as Jade Cafe by ChinaTown, I bet the name itself brought some fancy oriental restaurant with golden dragons on its walls and paper lanterns on the ceiling to mind. But in reality, it’s a fairly small sized cafe taking up a little of the lower portion of a double story building; with the rest of the building being taken over by the dominant schezuan restaurant called ChinaTown.

The cafe itself is a little hard to spot initially, but if you ask me in terms of quality, I’d say the little one definitely outshone the big guy here.

The interior is unlike any Chinese-themed place you can think of. 3 out of 4 of it’s walls are painted a turquoise/Jade hue (befitting to the place’s name) but one wall is entirely rustic with a smooth brick appearance, on which a giant hand painted mural of a beautiful and bad-ass looking woman serves some SULTRY BOSS LOOKS to you upon entering!

The Boss Lady on The Wall
(Original Image)

The two smaller Jade walls house a variety of vintage metallic posters, but the larger wall is adorned with NUMEROUS black and white photos of the most random things ranging from Darth Vader to vintage motorbikes to Steve Jobs. I call it The Great Wall of Jade.

The Great Wall of Jade
Source: Dawn News

There’s also seating space on a little porch outside for a bit of fresh air, with a canopy of lovely little fairy lights hanging above. Thanks to our notoriously humid weather, I haven’t had a chance to sit outside much, but what can really go wrong with fairy lights??

Thanks to the cafe’s size and seating space, it’s never too crowded and devoid of the usual hustle and bustle hungry Lahoris tend to bring in, making it a perfect place for someone who’s easily distracted (like me) to work. The staff’s efficient helpfulness can be described by one employee agreeing to comfort a shrieking infant by showing it around the place to indulge its fascination.

And did I mention their WiFi is amazing? I have now.

And the food? Oh my God, THE FOOD!!

Being a Lahori automatically makes you quite a critical culinary connoisseur who finds at least one dish that doesn’t tickle the taste buds. Jade Cafe serves a great number and variety of dishes at the most reasonable prices, and not one of them has disappointed me to date. Their mint margaritas served in mason jars have saved my life (and my motivation to work) numerous times from the outside heat. In all honesty each of the dishes that I’ve tried, ranging from chicken parmigiana to the fettuccine pasta, have all taken me to the moon and back. My personal favorite is the Chicken Cordon Bleu; Cheese, chicken, tomato sauce and mashed potatoes. Enough said. Although their Shashuka egg skillet definitely looks like something worth trying out the next time.

Shakshuka Egg-Skillet
Source: Dawn Images

Obviously, no cafe discussion is ever complete without noteworthy mention of its coffee and desserts! The mochaccino and hazelnut lattes look and taste every bit like the love we all deserve, especially with the foam hearts on them. The blueberry pancakes with maple syrup are the absolute lightest and fluffiest things to have if you can’t help but get one of their heavier main courses. But by far, my absolute favourite creation of theirs are their Nutella French Toasts. It’s served with a little bowl of more Nutella dip, as if it doesn’t have enough in it already. And they’re absolutely right! In all seriousness though, that dish has just the right amount of Nutella: not too much, not too little, just perfect. Having that with a cup of mocha is an ideal combination like no other.

Now that I think about it, this place would be my first choice as my makeshift office (a close second after the comfort of my bed, of course) for my work as a Community Fellow for The Tempest. I can picture it now: taking over one of the comfy seats with my laptop and headphones, sipping on a coffee as I look out for some bad-ass writers to bring  into the company, treating myself to some tasty food as I work on an article draft for publication, and letting the Boss Lady on the wall sass me back to work if I begin to procrastinate.

Moccachino - Love in a Mug
(Original Image)
Nutella Toasts (with more Nutella)
(Original Image)

Everything about that place is so tasteful, artfully done, and at the same time, it’s not distracting at all. Makes you feel right at home, and if I remember the rules of cinema correctly, one always finds their way back home.

Tech Now + Beyond

I know more about Trump than South Africa’s politics, even though I live in South Africa

Scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, I see a video mocking the way every Keeping Up With The Kardashians episode occurs; unnecessary drama over inconsequential events. It’s honestly hilarious, and I find myself laughing, remembering how much I used to love watching the show when I was in high school. It was a ritual I had perfected. Every day after school I would run to the kitchen to grab a snack and quickly sit down for the episode before my mom got back from work. Then I felt it, that pang, that distinct feeling we know all too well.


It was at that moment when it struck me: I constantly consume American media. Every day, I am confronted with all the aspects of American life, from the clothes they deem as fashionable, to the politics they consider outrageous. I can easily explain Trump’s 100 days in office, but can’t even begin to wrap my head around South African politics.

Social media has become an easy way for people in the global South, and South Africa in particular, to soak up American media. Yes, social media has enabled us to break down barriers that were built up by colonially-imposed borders. With just a few clicks I am able to access any part of the world, and they are able to access me. Since this is the case, I am able to talk to my sister in Guatemala as if she is in the next room, in fact, I am able to do a fellowship with The Tempest because of it.

But despite these amazing feats, social media has also allowed the rapid Americanization of the global South.

Take Buzzfeed, for example. Their entire brand is built on fast, easily-consumable media that can be accessed all over the world. Their YouTube videos garner millions of views, and I am probably responsible for at least two million alone.

After watching their video, Fast Food Burger Taste Test, and seeing all their different reactions to the burgers, I felt as if I had experienced every single one of them. Even though we only have Mcdonald’s and Burger King in South Africa, I feel as if I have significant memories of fast food outlets like Wendy’s, In-N-Out, Five Guys and Carl’s Jr. What began as innocently watching a random YouTube video, ended up in the creation of false memory.

In other words, it led to me feel nostalgic for an American culture I have no tangible connection to.

Fast Food Burger Taste Test has over six million views, many of which come from people in the global South. Although this seems harmless, there are many reasons why over-consuming American media can be bad for our mental health.

Firstly, imperialism has left an indelible mark on the South African consciousness. Many people believe that in order to be seen as ‘modern’ we need to aspire to Western standards of being, whether this is through our architecture, the way we run our companies, and even the way we dress, eat and speak. We are taught to believe that the West is pioneering advances in technology that we cannot live without, but we are forgetting about local knowledge systems that have supported our society for millennia.

Secondly, people believe that aspiring to western standards of being is also about aspiring to a particular brand of whiteness. For myself, I have had to deal with the reality that I have lost the ability to feel pride in my culture because I have been completely consumed by the idea that the darkness of my skin and the place of my ancestry are insignificant and even ‘backwards’. I have been taught to think of South Africa, my home, as an empty place; missing the finer American details that would propel us into an acceptable, whitewashed society.

It is undeniable that social media has contributed to these feelings of being ‘backwards’, insignificant and culturally dead. Being captured by so much of American media has meant that we need to find ways to reclaim our memories and reclaim our nostalgia for our own cultural practices, those beautiful little pieces of existence we buried under hours of Netflix binge-watching Mad Men till we could pronounce our words like we were born in New York.

Why don’t we instead use social media to promote our identities without shame, without explanation and translation? Let’s revel in the idea that South Africa, and the global South at large, is an imaginative landscape that belongs to us, and that we should be proud of.

Let us not covfefe our society.