From November 6 to November 9 2019, 33 guests from 19 countries, including several notable African authors, scholars, other individuals prominent in the African literary scene, participated in the tenth Literaturfestival (“literature festival”) hosted by stimmen afrikas (“Voices of Africa”) in Cologne, Germany. The theme this year was “Crossing Borders: Translate – Transpose -Communicate.”

According to Christa Morgenrath, the festival’s artistic director, the aim of the festival’s theme is to “overcome language barriers, make people aware of the meaningful act of translation, sound out all its dimensions, and open up and enjoy the successful transposition into other world of life – African in our case.”

With Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, co-founder and publishing director of Cassava Republic Press, as co-curator of the festival, the festival convened a series of readings, workshops, discussions, and performances that examined cultural and literary translation, multilingualism, and intercultural communication. Among the events held as part of the festival were a reading and conversation with British-Nigerian writer Sarah Ladipo Manyika, hosted by Nigerian-German writer Olumide Popoola; a reading and conversation with Senagelese author Boubacar Boris Diop, hosted by journalist Carine Debrabandère; a reading and conversation with Brussels-based Eritrean-Ethiopian author Sulaiman Addonia, hosted by cultural mediator and lecturer Dr. Roberto di Bella; and a panel on “Culture, Language Policy, and Power” featuring Kenyan author Mukoma wa Ngugi, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, and Nigerian author Elnathan John that was hosted by Sarah Ladipo Manyika. Other events included panels examining the issue of multilingualism and diversity in media and the idea of “language as play” featuring Ugandan poet and academic Susan Kiguli and Congolese author Fiston Mwanza Mujila; performances by authors and poets; as well as workshops on multilingualism in education and the art of literary translation.

Below are selected images and quotes from the festival, reproduced with permission from stimmen afrikas:

Sulaiman Addonia:

Learning a new language can be the result of war, forced migration and conflict. So, the question of a new language isn’t always celebrated.

Sulaiman Addonia in conversation with Roberto di Bella

Sarah Ladipo Manyika:

I realized that there are no books about older women, especially not African women. So, I decided to write one.

Sarah Ladipo Manyika

Bibi Bakare-Yusuf:

Africa is the beginning, the middle and the end. Africa is also the past, the present and the future. Africa has been crossing borders for milleniums. Before the Europeans came and also because and since the Europeans came.

Mukoma wa Ngugi and Bibi Bakare-Yusuf

Olumide Popoola:

For me it is very important to undress a language until it becomes naked. Then I can dress it the way I want.

Olumide Popoola and Sulaiman Addonia

Susan Kiguli:

To me writing, is life and therefore writing is part of what I live.

Find out more on the Stimmen Afrikas site.