In June, I had the pleasure and great good fortune to make a trip to Berlin, as the guest of my friend Teju Cole. Our mutual friend Magda Kapa came into the city by train to meet us, and we had a great time visiting museums together, eating some good food and drinking the fine local pilsner, attending an evening of the Berlin Poetry Festival, and expanding our literary friendship into a more personal one. Like me, and like Teju, Magda is a photographer as well as a writer; we all had our cameras at hand. She prefers not to be photographed directly, but I think she'll allow this one. Since she is Greek, we were kidding her about all the paintings that had grapes in them, so it seemed appropriate to photograph her this way!
Magda and I have known each other through our blogs and Twitter for a long time, and we've had a very fruitful relationship as writer and editor during the publication of her book, All the Words. But we were just delighted to finally meet each other in person. We spoke about internet relationships and how we both see them as absolutely real, but also how it helps to meet those people in person, and that this time spent face-to-face always changes and deepens the friendship.
I am determined to get back to Europe soon - it was such a treat to be in the vibrant city of Berlin, new to me, and to be surrounded by its art, music, and architecture, both old and new, and by people from all over the world. Our evening at the Berlin Poetry Festival was for a presentation titled African Voices; we heard strong performances/readings by Kwame Dawes (Ghana/Jamaica/USA), Warsan Shire (Somalia/UK), and Natalia Molebatsi (South Africa.)
As a child of the Cold War, I grew up under the cloud of the Iron Curtain and the sense of Berlin as a grey, divided city. This year is the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall; the city's revitalization, energy, and cultural richness were not only visually obvious, but could be felt.
And I hope that this won't be the only time I meet Magda, but the first of many such meetings. As she wrote in All the Words,
Friend: We touched each other in that photograph, now we'll always touch each other.
Memories: at the end of the year they hang together like grapes, some sweet, some sour, and wait for us to taste.
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