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From L-R: Helon Habila, Yewande Omotoso, Olumide Popoola, Chris Abani, Chika Unigwe, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Ayobami Adebayo, Mukuma Wa Ngugi.

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.

Some of the invited African writers.

The Festival venue: Kino Babylon, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 3010178, Berlin.

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

From L-R: Mukoma wa Ngugi and Elnathan John.

From L-R: Ayobami Adebay and Stefanie Hirs.

From L-R: Olumide Popoola, Yewande Omotoso, Chika Unigwe, and Jude Dibia.

Lesley Nneka Arimah reads from her collection, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky.

 

Camaraderie

From L-R: Musa Okwonga, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Chinelo Okparanta, Clementine Burnley, Linda Gabriel, Henrietta Rose-Innes, John Matip Eichler.

From L-R: Jessica Horn, Jude Dibia, Chris Abani, Abdilatif Abdalla, Olumide Popoola, A. Igoni Barrett.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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