BOOK REVIEW: Writing What We Like: A New Generation Speaks edited by Yolisa Qunta

photos: tafelberg, afternoon express

A year ago I had visited South Africa on an expedition with Operation Wallacea as a schools volunteer. My job was to aid the organisation with ecological surveys concerning terrestrial and marine wildlife. Because of my set itinerary for the entirety of my two-week stay, I was only able to develop a deeper understanding of animal culture rather than social. I felt in some way my South African experience wasn't exactly complete and I realised I needed to learn more about the local atmosphere as well. And so, on my last day while waiting at the airport, I decided to purchase with my remaining Rand a locally published book containing essays written by South African youth. This book is called "Writing What We Like: A New Generation Speaks". Everything was compiled and edited by the talented (and ultra-intelligent) Yolisa Qunta.

I was able to finish the book in a matter of days, even with sporadic pauses in between. It was an easy read but nonetheless interesting. Through simple wording, the individual authors were able to convey intellectually profound thoughts and opinions. At times gravely serious and other times hilarious, "Writing What We Like" is a book everyone should read: it is entertaining yet highly informative, innocent yet wise. What I enjoyed most about the collection was being able to peer into perspectives I had never experienced before; themes in the book can range from university life and post-Apartheid discrimination to the widely misconceived world of BDSM, all through the eyes of young black South African writers.

If I was able to pull anything from its context, "Writing What We Like" is a book by the youth for the youth. Each text provides deep insights from which a younger generation will be able to greatly benefit. However, "Writing What We Like", I must add, is in no way limited to the younger generation. It speaks loud and proud about the struggles of that very generation, yes, but it is set to build bridges and fortify connections through a mutual understanding across various age groups– not only in South Africa but worldwide. Though the work focuses mainly on local events, the views of the writers remain global and open, which I find incredibly impressive.

If you would like to learn more about South Africa through the perspective of young black writers that live there, I highly recommend you read this book. It is a significant new feat and deserves a whole lot of attention.

In addition, here is a video of Yolisa Qunta discussing her book:

Rocío x

Learn more about the book here.
Learn more about the author here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

photos: oregonlive, amazon

"Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it."

When I first started reading "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt, I had just finished with the ancient Greek tragedy "Medea" by Euripides (a must read, by the way), and considering the novel would have something to do with the Classics, I felt well equipped to start my journey into Tartt's vision of a collegiate New England. When I was well into the story, I noticed a general background knowledge about the Greek god Dionysus (Bacchus) or the ancient Greek lifestyle would surely encourage a deeper understanding and analysis of Tartt's first novel. You see, dear reader, "The Secret History" is almost entirely based on this eminent connection. Therefore an awareness of the context would positively expand the reader's appreciation of the parallelisms planted on paper.

The novel begins in a vignetted black and white daydream, each scene fluttering with adjectives and a profound attention to imagery. It explores Richard Papen's sudden association with the class of Julian Morrow and depicts his "transition" from blue-collar college boy to wealthy pretentious highbrow. His kinship with new classmates Henry, Bunny, Francis, Charles, and Camilla is solidified here and consequently precedes a sudden but calculated turn of events. The book is split into two parts by a deep, red gash – the second part only being slightly more saturated than the first (though an explanation thereof could make me accidentally tarnish the novel for you by spoiling the very aspects of what makes the novel as great as it is). The subject matter in the novel intensifies ad infinitum – the character development is constant and aligns itself perfectly with the plotline. As the story sinks further and further into tragedy, so do the relationships between characters. It is through this alignment that we understand that "The Secret History" is not just an elaborate telling of Greek fanaticism, student life, and murder, but more importantly a deeper examination of the compelling properties that come with it.

Consistent and tantalising, Tartt's powerful prose is enough to keep a reader from putting the book down at any given moment. Every element bears importance to "The Secret History" in its totality, much like the creation of "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci. Her ability to weave the unthinkable into something seemingly reasonable is astounding…which even the narrator (Richard Papen) begins to realise after the novel's fatal moments. This realisation horrifies him, and while his initial attempts at integration succeed, we learn sooner or later that the hubris he seeks would assert itself as his own hamartia, leading both him and the reader through a slow-burn descent into an all-consuming madness.

TL;DR "The Secret History" is an astonishing telling of a dramatic hero's fall into the unresolved catastrophic. If a Greek tragedy were made contemporary, this would be exactly it.

Rocío x

Learn more about the book here.
Learn more about the author here.


Liechtenstein was a small detour we took during our road trip across southern Germany. The small principality was besieged by roaring mountains and a raging sun. Here are some pictures from our visit:

After checking out the main road, visitor's centre, street shops, cafés, and castle, I wandered from the group with a select few to check out the microstate's contemporary art museum.

Charlotte Moth: "living images" (2015)

Charlotte Moth: "living images" (2015), detail

Charlotte Moth: "Travelogue"

Rocío x

My IB Art Exhibition

Exactly a year ago, I had just graduated high school with the International Baccalaureate Diploma. Though it had been a painstaking two years, I completed it with a keen and immeasurable appreciation for visual arts – a childhood hobby I'd long forgotten to love. However through extended research and practice and now with some curatorial experience under my belt, I find myself scrambling for more and more. 

Here, a glimpse into what I achieved during my time as an art student:

(all art by me)

Rocío x

2016/2017 unfinished art journal

I was instructed to keep an art journal in high school. It wouldn't count as a sketchbook, but rather an accumulation of almost everything and anything that would keep me inspired: whether it be drafts of prospective art pieces, snips from magazines, or even found objects. I'd since finished my high school art journal and started anew in 2016. This is a collection of my favourite pages thus far:

(all art by me)

Still working on it.

Rocio x


Welcome to Amsterdam, the city of sex, drugs and rock n' roll! Now let's get stoooooooned!

If I could invite the bus driver out to a coffee shop for the sole reason of uttering those words as we arrived in Holland's capital city, you're sure as hell I would. And it wasn't just these words that got me pumped to spend four days in the Sin City of Europe – it was because I'd be visiting my best friend Kata (I believe I've mentioned her name here a couple times) after not seeing each other for so long apart from our time together in South Africa. It didn't even matter that we'd miss the tulips Amsterdam is famous for. Sorry to be cheesy, but this girl is my favourite type of flower anyway.

We left for Amsterdam in the winter. Needless to say, seeing the place in a different season as usually advertised was simply other-worldly. I felt as though I were in a dream. Walking by the still canals, breathing in the biting mist, watching tourists scrambling for herring...nothing more could scream "storybook fisherman's town" than an actual fisherman smoking a pipe around the corner.

Luckily for us Potterheads, there would be a Harry Potter Exhibit in the outskirts of Utrecht, a city just thirty minutes away. I don't remember anybody telling me not to publish any pictures I took, so here's to hoping I won't get sued:

See you soon,

Rocío x

South Africa: my Opwall experience

Fig. 1. Study of the Olifants river from the Struwig Eco Reserve

I should have started writing this post shortly after the topical events occurred. However almost a year later, my lethargic ways continued to engulf my once-motivated spirit, so fully, that I completely forgot I even had this blog. Sorry for the delay.

As a pat on the back for having graduated high school (and frankly because I would have wasted my time in a gap year), I volunteered for a two-week biological excursion with Operation Wallacea in South Africa. This would be my first time in the continent (excluding a family trip to the Canary Islands more than a decade prior) and I was beyond exhilarated – and the fact that my best friends would be present added even more to my adrenaline-pumped packing party with Toto's Africa, the full Rodriguez discography, and soundtracks from Disney movies Tarzan and the Lion King making up my playlist. I was more than ready to spend one week in the bush, and another by the ocean. 

Our Opwall group was stationed in Kruger National Park for the first week. Crucial activities we had to do for Opwall's environmental research projects included bird point counts, habitat assessments, game transects, I could go on. If you follow mine and my best friend Kata's amateur travel Instagram, you might have already seen a few pictures from our trip, which I will post again here:

Fig. 2. The Olifants river, where an array of animals would gather every morning

Fig. 3. Game drive sunset

Fig. 4. We spotted this impala carcass during a tracks and signs lecture. Nearby plotted like seeds on the ground were several balls of hair, presumably from the dead animal. These two signs suggested this was the dinner of a leopard, who are known to remove the hair of their prey and carry them up a tree so they may feast undisturbed.

Fig. 5. Difficult to spot, but here stood a male buffalo. Usually solitary animals, buffalos are one of Africa's Big Five, also including lions, leopards, elephants, and the mighty rhinoceros (currently endangered).

Fig. 6. My experiences with giraffes were almost transcendent...their gigantic eyes and fixated glare brought me to question my existence as a human being. The grace these animals have is indescribable.
Fig. 7. "30/06/2016 – We were lucky enough to see a herd of elephants while on foot. 'The perfect spotting', our guide called it. We were able to observe them without them noticing us."

Fig. 8. Junior Martial eagle

Fig. 9. Baboon family on the run – I grabbed my camera too late and was only able to snap the last of the group
Fig. 10. "On our last walk, our guide brought us along the Olifants river to show us two hippo carcasses; one rather small, one very large, both dead due to starvation."

Fig. 11. The most curious (and the only) mongooses I had ever seen in my life. Their level of cuteness makes it unbelievable how feisty they can be. (Clue: they fight snakes!)

Fig. 12. The picture I am most proud of: an African wild dog at full stride, two of which we spotted hunting. Incredibly mobile and fast, I was lucky enough to capture the rare animal in perfect motion. There are only around 320 left in the South Africa.
Fig. 13. Antelopes in the Balule Game Reserve, Fig. 14. Antelope studies (impala and bush buck)

Even while my pictures and captions describe roughly what we did, our first week in South Africa entailed so much more. Lectures about wildlife preservation and entomology only cover the tip of the iceberg when it comes to other activities Opwall had scheduled for us. More information can be found here. If you are a student interested in biological sciences (with a keenness toward ecology especially), Opwall offers great programmes and volunteer expeditions that are worth every penny. Not only is it a wonderful opportunity, it is very much a life-changing experience. Even students that do not care for the subject field will love it – I guarantee it.

Rocio x