Gregory Warner

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

There's something sketchy at this year's Venice Biennale — the international art exhibition sometimes dubbed the Olympics of the contemporary art world.

When you come to the Kenyan pavilion, almost all of the artists will be ... Chinese.

The Biennale, one of the oldest and most important exhibitions of contemporary art in the world, takes place in Venice every two years. Thirty countries, including the U.S., have a permanent slot.

I once met a popular spoken word poet in Ethiopia who was asked by a government official to write a poem about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. (He politely explained that he didn't do poetry about infrastructure.) But it's not surprising that Ethiopia would like to inscribe this dam into the Ethiopian epic.

Let's start with a spice quiz. One is a bean discovered in Mexico. One's a tree native to India. One's the seed of a fruit discovered in Indonesia.

Today vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg can all be found in any spice farm in Zanzibar — the East African archipelago that was used as a spice plantation by the 18th century Omani Empire.

I didn't travel all the way to Ethiopia just to meet a character out of the sitcom Seinfeld.

But when I heard Ethiopians describe a particular popular restaurant called Chane's, I couldn't help recognize a resemblance, in its owner and lead chef, to the famously brusque soup man.

Picture yourself standing at a bus station in Nairobi, Kenya. The unwritten rule is that none of these minibuses (shared taxis, called matatus) will leave until they have enough passengers. That can be around 20 or more people. So every matatu has a tout shouting at top volume — even banging on the side of the bus — to corral more customers.

All of a sudden, what looks like a discotheque on wheels pulls up.

Feven Tashome is a study in blue. The 21-year-old's toenails are painted a rich cobalt, her scarf is baby blue and her leather handbag is ultramarine. To ordinary passersby in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, it's a fashion statement; to members of Ethiopia's beleaguered political opposition, it's a secret handshake.

Feven (Ethiopians go by their first names) is showing her allegiance to an opposition party with an odd name, and an even odder theme song.

Could a 12-step program, with its Christian roots, help addicts recover on a conservative Muslim island in the Indian Ocean?

Suleiman Mauly was desperate to find out. He'd been using heroin in his native Zanzibar since age 17. The island nation is a key stop for heroin smuggled from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Europe. An estimated 7 percent of the 1 million inhabitants are heroin addicts.

Mauly had tried to get clean a couple of times. It didn't work. Then he discovered a 12-step program in Mombasa, Kenya.

He came to the International Criminal Court in The Hague Monday. He is the first member of Uganda's notorious Lord's Resistance Army who will stand trial for war crimes committed as a rebel commander.

At the ICC pretrial hearing he was asked to verify his identity. His name is Dominic Ongwen. He is 35. And when he was 10 years old, he himself was abducted by LRA on his way home from school.

Hundreds of elementary schools were protesting the illegal seizure of their playground by a private developer in Nairobi, Kenya, when police fired tear gas into the crowd.

The incident sparked outrage across the city — and on social media, where Kenyans tweeted with the hashtag #OccupyPlayGround.

Editor's note: This post about activist Michael Sharp was originally published on January 2, 2015. On Monday, March 13, the government of Congo announced that Sharp, now a U.N. official, his colleague Zaida Catalan and four Congolese had been abducted by "negative forces not yet identified."

An Ethiopian kitchen can be a place of both succulence and self-denial.

In the kitchen of Abyssinia, a popular Ethiopian eatery in Nairobi, the owner, Abebe, demonstrates how his cook prepares the dish called kitfo. It's raw minced beef whipped together with cardamom and chili and a spicy butter, with a texture and taste closer to delicate cheese than to steak tartar.

You want to bench a pretty woman and launch your manifesto. Only you get bounced from her muzigo because she's pursuing a pensioner.

In the end, you were lucky. She's just a detoother who's after a rich guy.

Welcome to Uglish (pronounced "YOU-glish"), the Ugandan variant of English. Bernard Sabiti has written the first Uglish dictionary (not yet available outside of Uganda, but he's working on an e-book version for January).

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