Alain Mabanckou

Alain Mabanckou dazzled Nairobi residents as the guest of honour of Francophonie Month in Kenya from March 10-14, 2022.

Every year during the month of March, the richness and vitality of La Francophonie is celebrated around the world. In Nairobi, the guest of honour for Francophonie Month was novelist, journalist, poet, and academic Alain Mabanckou. Arguably the most garlanded African who writes in French alive today, he has numerous titles in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Born in the Republic of the Congo, he is now a Professor of Literature at UCLA in Los Angeles, USA.

Mabanckou enjoyed the best of what Nairobi has to offer in his first official tour in the East African city. This included events like a concert by Bilenge Musica with the Association of Congolese Students of Nairobi, visits to the Nairobi National Park, and to the French School. The highlights for us were two events;

Rencontres Littéraires, Mediatheque Alliance Française, March 10

Alain Mabanckou at Rencontres Littéraires at Alliance Française Nairobi
Alain Mabanckou at Rencontres Littéraires at Alliance Française Nairobi

The literary event hosted at the media library at the Alliance Française was moderated by Lucy Tetu and Weru Macharia on Thursday, March 10. Hosted in French, the full house discussed his novels Bleu-Blanc-Rouge (Blue White Red), Verre cassé (Broken Glass), and Demain j’aurai vingt ans (Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty) among others.  The event ended with audience members having books autographed and taking selfies with the author.

“Noir En France” (Blacks in France) film presentation, Alliance Française, March 14

Alain Mabanckou and Serge Noukoue
Alain Mabanckou and Serge Noukoue

Noir En France, a film directed by Alain Mabanckou and Aurélia Perreau, was originally broadcasted on France 2. The movie blurb states, “What do black French people have in common? Not much, apart from their skin color and the racism they experience. For the first time, the film “Noirs en France” gives the stage to black French people of all ages and from all backgrounds, known or unknown to the general public. Told by the writer Alain Mabanckou, this documentary retraces their stories, anchored in prejudices and stereotypes, but also filled with hope and pride. These blacks in France build a history in constant transformation.”

The movie screened with English subtitles received a standing ovation for its director when it ended. After the screening, there was a session moderated by the French embassy’s Serge Noukoué which included questions from the moderator and the audience.

The evening ended with a cocktail where fans got their books autographed and took selfies with the popular author.