Berlin Writing in Immigration

African writers converge for Berlin’s first African Book Festival.

Writers from across the African continent converged on Berlin for the first African Book Festival with Chris Abani as the headliner on April 26-28, 2018. Organised by the InterKontinental and curated by Olumide Popoola, the festival looked at transnationalism and migration in a more literary sense of “keeping in motion”.

Berlin has a very unique place in African history as this was where the European colonisers met in 1895 to share out the continent across the Mediterranean Ocean. Unbeknownst to those poor people living their lives in Africa, they would be invaded never to recover even when the colonisers “returned” to their shores.

It was poetic justice therefore that Berlin would be the place where dozens of writers from across the African continent would converge for what would become the first major literary festival. Curating the events was Olumide Popoola who is well known on the scene for her novel When We Speak of Nothing published by Cassava Republic Press.

Taking part in the activities were authors, including award winners, poets, publishers and others around the African writing world. They included Leye Adenle, Chris Abani , Abdilatif Abdalla, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, A. Igoni Barrett, Maroula Blades, JJ Bola, Clementine Burnley, Brian Chikwava, Jude Dibia , Bernardine Evaristo, Anita Djafari, Linda Gabriel, Michael Götting, Helon Habila, Jerry Hoffmann, Jessica Horn, Elnathan John , Sharmaine Lovegrove , Nick Makoha , Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi , Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Niq Mhlongo, Arlette-Louise Ndakoze , Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Irenosen Okojie, Chinelo Okparanta, Musa Okwonga, Yewande Omotoso, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Olumide Popoola, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Minna Salami, Chika Unigwe, and Zukiswa Wanner.

The guests had discussions under topic areas like;

  • “Writing in Migration” – Leading African writers discuss personal experiences and perspectives of writing in or about migration.
  • A Compact Vision – Renaissance of the Short Story?
  • Always on the Move – African Identity and African Writing?
  • Beyond “We Should All Be Feminists“: New Nigerian Gender Roles in the Making?
  • Between Myth and Trauma – How to write about the unspeakable?
  • Curating the Conversation. Influencing the Agenda. How do publishers and promoters of literature open the Gates?
  • The language question – Writing outside a colonial legacy?
  • Decolonizing the Mind.
  • The F-Word. Women shaping the literary space.
  • The Past is Present.

Here are images from the festival courtesy of the event organisers.

African Writers on stage.
African Writers on stage.
Olumide Popoola moderates Yewande Omotoso, Chika Unigwe, and Jude Dibia.
Olumide Popoola moderates Yewande Omotoso, Chika Unigwe, and Jude Dibia
Olumide Popoola (centre), headliner Chris Abani (right)
Olumide Popoola (centre), headliner Chris Abani (right)
Mukoma wa Ngugi and Elnathan John.
Mukoma wa Ngugi and Elnathan John.


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