Last month, the Nigerian-German novelist Olumide Popoola, author of When We Speak of Nothing, curated a star-studded festival of African writers in Berlin. The event, held from 26–28 April at Kino Babylon, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 3010178, Berlin, was themed “Writing in Migration” and was presented by the literary agency InterKontinental. It was sponsored by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and Berlin’s Senate Department for Culture and Europe. Notable names from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, and Ghana were in attendance for what was the first such gathering of African writers in Berlin.
Through talks, readings and roundtable discussions of prose and poetry works, “Writing in Migration” tackled issues of transnationality and transculturality and interrogated that sense of “being on the move.” What does it mean to live and write after a forced or voluntary move to Europe/the USA? How do African writers process constant movement through spaces and identities? Is there a responsibility towards tradition or even an African identity? These were a few of the questions engaged by the festival.
Other subjects included personal experiences and perspectives of writing in or about migration, the renaissance of the short story form, an engagement with new Nigerian gender roles, writing about trauma and myth, the influence of publishers and literature promoters, engaging the colonial legacy via language, and the leading roles of women in contemporary African literature.
In attendance from Nigeria: Chris Abani, Chinelo Okparanta, Bernardine Evaristo, Chika Unigwe, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Helon Habila, Jude Dibia, Ayobami Adebayo, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Leye Adenle, and Elnathan John. From Kenya: Yvonne Owuor and Abdilatif Abdallah. From South Africa: Zukiswa Wanner, Niq Mhlongo, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Pumla Gqola.
From Uganda: Jennifer Makumbi, Clementine Ewokolo Burnley, Nick Makoha, and Musa Okwonga. From DR Congo: JJ Bola. From Zimbabwe: Brian Chikwava and Linda Gabriel. From Ghana: Jessica Horn. From Germany: Maroula Blades.
Enjoy the photos below, courtesy of Olumide Popoola and InterKontinental. Congratulations to them for pulling this off.
Panels and Readings