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Literature and literary translation offer opportunities to paint nuanced and complex pictures of other regions and cultures. African literature has lately enjoyed an increase in popularity in Germany, but a closer glance at the field reveals that the visibility of African writing is limited to a few select authors. The range and diversity of Africa and the African diaspora remain invisible to those readers who have to rely on German translations of African literature.
“Blick in die Zukunft – Gegen das Vergessen” is a project realized by stimmen afrikas / Allerweltshaus Köln e.V. and the HHU’s interdisciplinary MA–programme Literary Translation. It places special emphasis on authors who might not fit into the habitual molds of Western readerly expectations. Its goal is to broaden the perception of diverse African contexts, to include new nuances and facets and, eventually, to highlight the interdependence of African and Western cultures. “Blick in die Zukunft – Gegen das Vergessen” sees itself as a contribution of transcultural examinations of Africa in and for Europe via a close and intimate engagement with African literatures. Nowhere can such an engagement be more tangibly implemented that in acts of translation.
Six authors, originating from six African countries or the diaspora, have been part of the project: the Nigerian-German writer Olumide Popoola, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi from Uganda, Karen Jennings from South Africa, Jo Güstin from Cameroon, Sinzo Aanza from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nafissatou Dia Diouf from Senegal. Each of these writers brought along a short story that is concerned with legacies of the past. In the course of the project, each author also produced a new short story grappling with notions of the future.
Students of the MA programme Literary Translation had the opportunity to translate the stories into German in dialogue with the authors. In the spring of 2022, the short stories and their translations will be published in a trilingual anthology as part of the series “Düsseldorf übersetzt”.
The short stories along with their translations were presented to the public in numerous readings and workshops, online as well as offline, over the course of the two-year project.
The project is generously funded by the Kunststiftung NRW.
Jo Güstin is a writer, director, comedian, creative producer, and everything she does is a big DIL: Decolonization, Intersectionality, Liberation. She’s the author of two fiction books 9 Histoires lumineuses (2017) and Ah Sissi, il faut souffrir pour être Française ! (2019) both published at Présence Africaine. After arriving in Canada in 2019, the Toronto-based artivist realized that as a queer Black womxn, she belonged nowhere. She wants all the queer BIPOC around the world feeling the same to find in her productions a place to call home. That is why in 2020, she launched the creative production company DEARNGE SOCIETY Inc. Its first productions are a podcast (Contes et légendes du Queeristan), a short film (Don’t Text Your Ex) and a stand-up "comed’ e-show" (Life Is Too Short To Be Straight).
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s first novel, Kintu, won the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013. Her short story, Let’s Tell This Story Properly won the regional (Africa) and Global Commonwealth Short story prize 2014. Her collection of short stories called Manchester Happened (for the UK/Commonwealth publication) and Let’s Tell This Story Properly (for US/Canada publication) came out in spring 2019 and was shortlisted for The Big Book prize: Harper’s Bazaar. Makumbi is a recipient of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize (2018), a Cheuse International Writing Fellow (2019) and a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (2021). Her second novel, The First Woman for UK/Commonwealth and A Girl is a Body of Water for USA/Canada publication, came out in autumn 2020, has been awarded the Jhalak Prize 2021 and shortlisted for the Encore Prize and the James Tait Black Prize. Makumbi holds a PhD from Lancaster University and is a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.
London-based Olumide Popoola is a Nigerian-German writer. Her publications include essays, poetry, the novella this is not about sadness (Unrast, 2010), the play text Also by Mail (edition assemblage, 2013) and the short story collection breach, which she co-authored with Annie Holmes (Peirene Press, 2016). Her critically acclaimed novel When We Speak of Nothing was published by Cassava Republic Press in 2017 in the UK and Nigeria and in 2018 in the US. In 2004, she won the May Ayim Award in the category Poetry, the first Black German Literary Award. Popoola holds a PhD in Creative Writing and lectured at various universities. In 2018, Popoola curated Berlin's inaugural international African Bookfest “Writing in Migration” which saw more than 35 authors come to the city. She created and is leading the creative writing and mentoring scheme “The Future is Back” for emerging LGBTQ+ writers, which is funded by the Arts Council England. Popoola presents internationally as author, speaker and facilitator. Popoola was the writer in residence at Greenwich University for 2019/20, where she worked on her new novel.
Nafissatou Dia Diouf
Nafissatou Dia Diouf is a Senegalese author writing in French. She was born in 1973 in Dakar into a multicultural family – simultaneously deeply rooted in the Senegalese society and cosmopolitan thanks to literature and travel. She went to school in Dakar and studied at the university in Bordeaux before returning to Senegal to work in telecommunications. Dia Diouf’s writing is rich and diverse: she produces everything from novels to poetry, as well as young-adult literature and socio-critical commentary. Her book Sociobiz is a satire of the contemporary Senegalese society and the Homo Senegalensis in the work environment, a realistic and humorous commentary. Her first novel La maison des épices is the result of many years of research, especially in the healthcare sector.
After a decade of writing, Dia Diouf’s bibliography encompasses ten own literary productions as well as the same number of collaborative works. Today, she is an important figure of the Senegalese literary landscape.
Karen Jennings is a South African author. She holds Masters degrees in both English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town, and a PhD in English Literature from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her debut novel, Finding Soutbek, was shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for African Fiction. In 2014 her short story collection, Away from the Dead, was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor International short story competition. Her memoir, Travels with my Father, was published in 2016, and in 2018 she released her debut poetry collection, Space Inhabited by Echoes. In 2019 and 2020 she published the novels Upturned Earth and An Island. Jennings is also affiliated with the mentorship programmes run by Writivism and Short Story Day Africa, both of which promote writing in Africa. Jennings is currently living in Brazil with her Brazilian husband, and in 2018 completed post-doctoral research at the Federal University of Goiás on the historical relationship between science and literature, with a focus on eusocial insects.
The poet, dramaturg and visual artist Sinzo Aanza published his debut novel Généalogie d’une banalité in 2015. Aanza has also written several stage plays such as Que ta volonté soit Kin (2018), poems, short storys and essays. In his writing, he analyses the political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the image of the country that “has always been in the hands of investors, preferably foreign ones”. The exploitation of natural resources, the representation of national identities and the ramifications of these identities, as well as the construction of the Congo’s image since the colonial period are topics he addresses both in his literary works and in his sculptures. Aanza is the art director of Yango, the biennial of contemporary art in Kinshasa.
Projet de traduction réalisé dans le cadre d'une coopération entre stimmen afrikas / Allerweltshaus Köln e.V. et le master en traduction littéraire
La littérature et la traduction littéraire permettent de dessiner des images nuancées et complexes d’autres pays et cultures. Bien que la littérature africaine connaisse un intérêt grandissant en Allemagne, peu de ses écrivain_e_s jouissent d’une grande visibilité. La richesse de la littérature d’Afrique et de la diaspora africaine reste invisible aux yeux des lecteurs et lectrices germanophones.
« Blick in die Zukunft – Gegen das Vergessen », un projet de stimmen afrikas / Allerweltshaus Köln e.V. et du master en traduction littéraire de l’Université Heinrich Heine à Düsseldorf, a pour but de placer sur le devant de la scène des écrivain_e_s autrices qui n’entrent pas dans le moule des attentes d’un public occidental. Ce projet vise à étendre la perception des contextes africains à de nouvelles nuances et facettes, notamment à mettre en lumière l’interdépendance des cultures africaines et occidentales. « Blick in die Zukunft – Gegen das Vergessen » a pour vocation de contribuer à une réflexion transculturelle sur l’image de l’Afrique en Europe, rendue d’autant plus concrète par le travail de traduction.
Six écrivain_e_s, originaires de six pays africains ou de la diaspora africaine, participent activement à ce projet littéraire : Olúmidé Pópóolá, écrivaine germano-nigériane, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi d’Ouganda, Karen Jennings d’Afrique du Sud, Jo Güstin du Cameroun, Sinzo Aanza de la République Démocratique du Congo et Nafissatou Dia Diouf du Sénégal. Chacune et chacun emmènera une nouvelle consacrée aux traces laissées par le passé. Au cours de ce projet, les auteurs et autrices écriront une autre nouvelle qui les pousse à tourner leur regard vers l’avenir.
Les étudiant_e_s du master en traduction littéraire sont en contact avec les écrivain_e_s et réaliseront une traduction vers l’allemand de ces nouvelles, qui seront publiées au printemps 2022 sous la forme d’une anthologie trilingue au sein de la collection Düsseldorf übersetzt.
Les nouvelles et leurs traductions comprises dans la première partie (« Gegen das Vergessen ») seront présentées lors de lectures littéraires bilingues dans le cadre d’un festival en ligne organisé par stimmen afrikas. La présentation des textes repris dans la deuxième partie (« Blick in die Zukunft ») est prévue pour l’été et l’automne 2021 en présence des écrivain_e_s et de leurs traducteurs et traductrices. Ces évènements se dérouleront en plusieurs lieux en Rhénanie du Nord-Westphalie, notamment à Düsseldorf et à Cologne. De plus amples informations suivront.
Avec l’aimable soutien de la Kunststiftung NRW.
Prof. Dr. Birgit Neumann, PD Dr. Vera Elisabeth Gerling, Dr. Eva Ulrike Pirker
Lena Riebl (MA programme Literary Translation)
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