Mohamedou Ould Slahi Houbeini, the new curator of the African Book Festival Berlin 2023 which runs from August 25-27, has been revealed today.
In 2018, many of the leading African writers, poets, and thinkers on the continent and in the diaspora converged on Berlin, Germany for the African Book Festival. It has gone on to become one of the most looked out for literary festivals where African letters are concerned. The first curator of the festival was writer Olumide Popoola. She was followed in the curatorial chair by author and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga, musician and author Kalaf Epalanga, and writer, filmmaker, and photographer Lidudumalingani.
The curator for this year’s edition is Mauritanian-born Netherlands-based writer Mohamedou Ould Slahi Houbeini known to many as one of those unjustly imprisoned in the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. His memoir Guantánamo Diary (Canongate Books, 2017) first published in 2015 became an international bestseller. While still in captivity, Slahi Houbeini wrote the novel The Actual True Story of Ahmed and Zarga (Ohio University Press, 2021) where he takes his reader on an epic journey through the geographical and spiritual terrain of the Sahara. His perspective on the relationship between humans and the environment is unique in contemporary African literature.
As curator, Slahi Houbeini is putting together a programme that includes Mauritanian poetry, but also readings, concerts, panel discussions, and film. The central experience of how freedom can not only be defined and achieved but also what uncertainties and responsibilities it comes with, is at the heart of the curator’s work. At the same time, he is looking forward to the intercultural exchange that the popular festival offers, as well as the opportunity to present common and universal values reflected in literature.