Photo: Dan Medhurst

Editors’ Picks | Amuse’s Favourite Pieces of 2018

A selection of the stories we loved this year, as picked by the Amuse team

by Amuse Team
Dec 30 2018, 9:45am

Photo: Dan Medhurst

In time for the closing of the year - and as an excuse to test the sumptuousness of whatever new gadget Santa brought you this Christmas - we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite pieces from 2018. Since our re-launch in May, we have brought you a surfeit of original, considered, and important work from all corners of the globe, reporting from some two-dozen countries in over three hundred pieces.

In the process, we’ve sent our intrepid writers down tin mines in Cornwall, to Vietnamese torture islands, across the French Basque coast in Rolls-Royces, down the slopes of the Caucasus mountains, to haunted hotels in Colorado - a piece in every continent (apart from Antarctica; but we must leave some worlds to conquer). We even sent our editor off to North Korea for a week. Here are some of our favourites from what has been a fantastic year of writing. We’ll see you in 2019!

Sometimes, in life, your second act can be as impactful as your first; but few people have had the considerable impact and influence on their national and regional culture that Roland Rittman has had in Scandinavia. Our Junior Editor, Kieran Morris, spent a weekend with the genteel 71-year old master forager, for this feature-length profile of his life and legacy.

North Korea is at a critical juncture right now. Following the terrifying escalations of rhetoric between the DPRK and the United States, which at one point looked to have the makings of nuclear extermination, the North Korean government have been keen to reintegrate with the rest of the world, and invite tourists to experience its way of life. Senior Editor, Tristan Kennedy, jumped at the chance, producing this considerable essay from his time in the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ - the largest piece that Amuse has ever published.

There are no mausoleums in Italy or Germany for Mussolini and Hitler - their points of demise, instead, are marked, or consciously unmarked, with the lack of pomp and ceremony that they deserve. So why is it that the body of General Francisco Franco, and the Falangist idol José Antonio Primo de Rivera, still lay, dressed with flowers, in a basilica larger than St. Peter’s? Dan Hancox trekked to the Valley of the Fallen, outside Madrid, to see the persistence of Francoist sympathy, in a nation that is tearing itself apart over its past and future.

Plastic surgery is at its most accessible, and at its most popular, on account of the warping of beauty standards across the world, and the demand to have the perfect features in order to get by within it. Tabi Jackson Gee took to investigating the strange, dark world of plastic surgery tourism, and the lengths that some people will go to for the ideal form and face.

Mads Nissen - the award-winning Danish photojournalist - has seen Colombia go through hell and back in his seven-year photo tour. Capturing the mundane and the surreal; the persistence of life around chaos; and the deleterious effect of cocaine and marijuana production in the country, Nissen’s shots tell a story of survival, and the costs of maintaining it. Oliver Lunn sat down with him to speak about his time in Colombia, and to tell the stories behind some of his most memorable shots.

They formed their team without knowing the rules of their sport; they don’t have a pitch so play on a volcanic beach; and their nearest competitor is Scotland, nearly 800 miles away - but the Icelandic Cricket Team could be the next big sporting superstars to emerge from their tiny but illustriously successful nation. John Silcox spent some time with the team, as they set about their plans for world domination (once they’d found somewhere to play).

In this piece, Dr. Kate Lister tells us about the Bauls - a religious sect in Bangladesh who, amongst many other customs, believe that menstrual blood is sacred (and, as such, consume it as a means of rejuvenation), and that a man ought not to ever ejaculate until a menstruating woman’s needs have been met. The Bauls may be one extreme example of being progressive around menstruation, Lister argues, but theirs is an attitude very much unlike large parts of the world, who still associate menstruation with shame and uncleanliness.

Berlin has been, for as long as it has been a unified city - and for some time in its disunified state, at least in its Western iteration - a particularly buzzy lightbulb to which the world’s arty moths are drawn. But it does not have the lockdown on German chic and style; no - deep in the country’s West, spitting distance from the Belgian border, is Cologne, a true artists’ refuge. Our Social Editor, Clem Fiell, headed out to city to peruse its architectural marvels, and argue that Germany’s true home of art and design is waiting for you to visit.

One of the few territories under American governance, but not with formal statehood, the Marshall Islands holds an unenviable title: ‘the Most Nuked Place on the Planet’, with some 67 nuclear tests being conducted upon its territory immediately after the Second World War. We sent Paul Evans out to the Islands both to investigate their strange relationship with the threat of mutually assured destruction that dominated the 20th Century, and to explore the new luxury surf lodge that has opened to rebrand the Islands as a surfers’ paradise.

What does an 800-year old dessert have to do with the modern state of Egypt, and the Middle East at large? Zahra Hankir visited Cairo for a veritable tour of Om Ali - the ubiquitous Egyptian dessert, made from puff pastry, raisins, pistachios, and sweetened milk - whilst exploring how this pudding brings some semblance of unity to the often-interminably divided people of Egypt, as well as how efforts to modernise the dish have been met with widespread and officious condemnation. In the process of her tour, she explains the fascinating history of Om Ali, whilst simultaneously capturing the enchanting, misunderstood city of Cairo.

Best of 2018