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Translation Project "Blick in die Zukunft - Gegen das Vergessen: Short Stories from African Contexts"

Realized as part of a cooperation between stimmen afrikas / Allerweltshaus Köln e.V. and the MA Literary Translation

[voir ci-dessous pour une version en français]

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. 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 and 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 more 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 agreed to be part of the project: the Nigerian-German writer Olúmìdé Pópóọlá, 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 brings along a short story that is concerned with legacies of the past. In the course of the project, each author will produce a new short story grappling with notions of the future.

Students of the MA programme Literary Translation will have 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 first block of short stories - concerned with memories of the past - will be presented in bilingual readings along with their translations within the context of an online festival organized by stimmen afrikas. The second block of short stories - concerned with notions of the future - will be presented in several events with the authors and translators in the summer and fall of 2021 in North Rhine-Westphalia, including in Düsseldorf and Cologne. Further information will follow.

The project is generously funded by the Kunststiftung NRW.

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In the upcoming winter term, the authors participating in our project will offer online workshops on various topics surrounding literary translation and creative writing. All workshops will take place between 6 and 7.30 PM on Cisco Webex.

If you have any questions or are interested in participating in one or several workshops, please contact via e-mail. You will then receive an invitation link to the Webex meeting.

Thu, 29.10.20: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi – On not translating Africa

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi discusses the importance and the challenges of producing literature from African contexts for a broader global audience without adapting to the expectations of a Western readership. How much should authors and translators actually translate and explain to their readers? Are there aspects that should rather remain untranslated? These and other questions are also relevant to Makumbi’s short story “She is our Stupid”, translated by Janna Krampe. Aside from this discussion about cultural obviousnesses, requirements, and transfer, the workshop also includes creative writing exercises.

Language: English

The Author: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a Ugandan fiction writer. Her 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) and a Cheuse International Writing Fellow (2019). Her second novel, The First Woman for UK/Commonwealth and A Girl is a Body of Water for USA/Canada publication, comes out in autumn 2020. She has a PhD from Lancaster University and is a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.



Thu, 12.11.20: Olúmìdé Pópóọlá - Writing and Translating Gender across Cultures

Olúmìdé Pópóọlá speaks on gender and gendered language in literary writing. What are the challenges these concepts pose to an author – and what creative possibilities do they offer? These challenges and possibilities also have implications for translation processes: The English and German language differ fundamentally regarding gender. What strategies can translators use to approach this issue? Aside from questions about gender, the workshop also includes creative writing exercises. Pópóọlá’s short story “The Swimmer” has been translated by Sarah Bremer.

Language: English / German

The Author: London-based Olúmìdé Pópóọlá 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. Pópóọlá holds a PhD in Creative Writing and lectured at various universities. In 2018, Pópóọlá 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. Pópóọlá presents internationally as author, speaker and facilitator. Pópóọlá was the writer in residence at Greenwich University for 2019/20, where she worked on her new novel. 



Mo, 30.11.20: Jo Güstin – „Coucou ou le non-métissage“

In her short story „Coucou ou le non-métissage” from her collection 9 Histoires Lumineuses où le bien est le mal, Jo Güstin tells the story of the little Black girl Coucou, who has internalized the racism of her environment and her own mother to such an extent that her greatest wish is to be White. Through her young protagonist’s naïve eyes and in a suitably simple language, Jo Güstin recounts Coucou’s everyday experiences shaping the girl’s self-image. Esther Klehm presents her German translation of the short story. The translator and the author – who speaks German fluently and works as a translator herself – discuss the text’s thematic and stylistic features as well as the various challenges and possibilities of its translation.

Language: French / German

The author: Jo Güstin (she/her/tbd) is an intersectionality comedian, creative producer and writer for any art form that requires a story. She uses fiction and comedy to dismantle the cis het white patriarchy. In 2016, her experimental short film Aux Mots de couleur was acclaimed at Cineffable, the International Lesbian and Feminist Film Festival in Paris. After the tragicomic 9 Histoires lumineuses, a collection of short stories published in 2017 by Présence Africaine, in 2019 Jo Güstin denounced, in the stinging novel Ah Sissi, the way France treats racialized womxn. Since 2018, she has been performing her standup show Je n’suis pas venue ici pour souffrir, OK ? Jo Güstin studied in Cameroon, France, Japan and Germany. After arriving in Canada on July 1st, 2019 as a permanent resident, the Toronto-based artivist realizes that as a queer Black genderfluid womxn, she belongs nowhere. She wants all the queer BIPOC around the world feeling the same to find in her productions a place to call home.



Thu, 14.01.21: Nafissatou Dia Diouf – “J’irai …“

Nafissatou Dia Diouf presents her short story “J’irai …“, published in the 2010 anthology Nouvelles du Sénégal by Magellan & Cie, that has been translated by Gundula Hornig for the project. “J’irai …” is the story of a young woman who travels through Senegal, from Dakar to Saint-Louis, following the traces of her family`s complicated history. An old nursery rhyme remains stuck in the narrator’s head, accompanies her on her journey and repeatedly prompts memories of her childhood - gradually revealing the narrator’s life story to the reader. In the workshop, the text`s linguistic and stylistic characteristics as well as the challenges and possibilities of its translation will be discussed.

Language: French / German

The Author: 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. 



Thu, 28.01.21: Karen Jennings – Rhythms and Melodies of Writing

Around the globe, the English language has to offer a number of varieties and nuances in all its aspects, including its sound, rhythm and melody. Karen Jennings discusses the impact of a language’s rhythm and melody for writing literary texts. Workshop participants will be sensitized for the music of language and practice to produce said music themselves in creative writing exercises. The challenges of translating texts that make heavy use of rhythm and melody will be discussed as well. Jennings short story “Keeping” is such a text; for the project, Kathrin Hettrich and Loredana Fiorello took on the challenge of its translation.

Language: English

The Author: 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. 



Thu, 11.02.21: Sinzo Aanza – "La fête et l’ombre“

Sinzo Aanza presents his unpublished text „La fête et l’ombre”, a dramatic dialogue between a nameless woman and a nameless girl – the woman’s younger self. Together, they try to reconstruct a horrible childhood memory: As a child, they witnessed the brutal torture and murder of their grandfather by a group of soldiers and became victims of sexual violence themselves. The story addresses the inconsistency of memory and the difficulties of approaching traumatizing events with the limited means of language. Lena Riebl presents her German translation of “La fête et l’ombre” and discusses the linguistic and stylistic characteristics of the text as well as the various challenges and possibilities of its translation with the author.

Language: French / German

The Author: 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.


Projekt coordination:
Prof. Dr. Birgit Neumann, PD Dr. Vera Elisabeth Gerling, Dr. Eva Ulrike Pirker

Student Assistant:
Lena Riebl (MA programme Literary Translation)

For further information, please contact us via .

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