African Literatures in Cologne

„It is important to me that African stories be told by African people.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Since 2009, the project stimmen afrikas has invited numerous authors from the African continent and the African diaspora to present their literary works in Cologne. The authors present their works by reading excerpts from novels, short stories, or poems and by engaging in conversations with the audience. The range of themes and forms of expression that these diverse texts and literary genres reveal, and the encounters with extraordinary authors, make each reading a special event. Since its founding, stimmen afrikas has already featured 164 distinguished guests and writers from 36 countries in Africa, such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nobel Laureate in Literature Abdulrazak Gurnah, and Tsitsi Dangarembga (winner of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2021)—to name but a few.

From 2012 until 2018 stimmen afrikas organized annual readings and invited literary scholars and anybody interested in literatures from the African continent. The growing audiences show how much these readings are appreciated, cherished even, by both the audience and the invited guests.

„What you’re doing here is quite wonderful!", says a regular guest. Fatou Diome, an author from Senegal, found her audience to be „very open-minded and warm-hearted. I could have gone on for hours!“, she said. Samson Kambalu from Malawi was also quite thrilled: „It was fantastic. I’d love to do this again!" And Youssouf Amine Elalamy, from Morocco, pointed out that "It is important for Africa’s voices to be heard outside of Africa, too.“

Diversity and peculiarity of African literatures

Modern African literature, written in colonial languages, emerged in the middle of the 20th century from a growing awareness of cultural autonomy and parallel to efforts made towards political emancipation. After most African countries became independent in the 1960s, anglophone and francophone literatures from the African continent became more political and critical and often focused on post-colonial conditions, neocolonialism, political persecution, and oppression. At the same time, novels, and short stories by African women* writers increasingly highlighted gender inequalities and feminist struggles.

Given the content and stylistic diversity of contemporary African narratives, stimmen afrikas conveys a differentiated picture of a continent’s literary diversity that is as little-known in Europe as is the transcontinental African diaspora. We aim to paint an authentic picture of the very lively, dynamic, and diverse contemporary literatures from Africa and the African diaspora as much as of the lived realities of the African community.

To overcome stereotypes about Africa that are still widespread, we organise panel discussions on cultural political themes and publish related works, such as Decolonising the Mind by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, in cooperation with the Afrika Kooperative Münster, and published in German (Dekolonisierung des Denkens) by Unrast Verlag in 2017. stimmen afrikas’ second publication, entitled Imagine Africa 2060 - Stories on the Future of a Continent, was published in German (Imagine Africa - Geschichten zur Zukunft eines Kontinents) by Peter Hammer Verlag in 2019, is an anthology of African short stories and celebrates stimmen afrikas’ 10th anniversary.

As part of the 10th anniversary, stimmen afrikas organized a literary festival CROSSING BORDERS: translate - transpose - communicate, which was held from 6 to 9 November 2019 in Cologne. Our guest curator was the Nigerian publisher and curator Bibi Bakare-Yusuf. More than 33 authors, artists, and literary translators discussed themes such as multilingualism, literary and cultural translations, and immersed visitors in the word and narrative arts of the African continent.

Another highlight was the short story festival in 2021 which was held as a part of the event series Blick in die Zukunft – Gegen das Vergessen  (Imagining the Future – Against the Oblivion). The invited guests entered a dialogue with African intellectuals and artists to debate about the past and build a common future in a short story festival in April and in six subsequent readings in the fall of 2021. Twelve short stories were translated into German by students of the masters’ programme “Literary Translation” (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf), and will be published in a trilingual anthology entitled Timescapes – aller-retour (by C.W. Leske Verlag) in 2022.

For details regarding events, please consult to the Veranstaltungsarchiv


Christa Morgenrath
A project by Allerweltshaus Köln e.V.

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