Membrane: African Literatures Festival 2019

A snapshot of the “Membrane: African Literatures Festival 2019” in Stuttgart, Germany.

The Membrane: African Literatures Festival 2019 was hosted in Stuttgart, Germany from May 23-26, 2019.

The Membrane: African Literatures Festival was a four-day international literature festival hosted by Literaturhaus Stuttgart, Institut Français and Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. It featured readings, conversations, interventions, lectures, culinary surprises and trajectories, exhibitions, performances, concerts and a German-Cameroonian conversation in comics.

The festival, conducted in English, French and German, was curated by novelist Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, EOTO director Nadja Ofuatey-Alazard, and economist, author and scholar Felwine Sarr. It was funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Heinrich Böll Foundation of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Here are some of the festival highlights.

Opening ceremony

Festival curators Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Nadja Ofuatey-Alazard, and Felwine Sarr
Festival curators Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Nadja Ofuatey-Alazard, and Felwine Sarr. Photo/Lemia Bodden

The official opening ceremony of the festival was hosted at the Literaturhaus Stuttgart and had speeches and performances on May 23. Speaking at the opening evening were Anne Fleckstein (Kulturstiftung des Bundes), Stefanie Stegmann (Literaturhaus), Elke aus dem Moore (Akademie Schloss Solitude), and Johanne Mazeau-Schmid (Institut français). Also speaking were curators Nadja Ofuatey- Alazard, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, and Felwine Sarr.

Aleya Kassam
Aleya Kassam. Photo/Lemia Bodden

The evening, which included performances by Aleya Kassam, Ketty Nivyabandi, Jean-Luc Raharimanana, and Lisa Tuyala, was emceed by Ainehi Edoro and Mshai Mwangola. Some of the performances were dedicated to Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina who passed away weeks before.

Book launches

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. Photo/Lemia Bodden.

There were several launches by some of your favourites who have produced in the last few years. Audiences in Stuttgart attended the launches of Novuyo Rosa Tshuma’s House of Stone, Emmanuel Iduma’s A Strangers Pose, Sulaiman Addonia’s Silence is My Mother Tongue, Léonora Miano’s Crepuscule Du Tourment, and Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

Aya Cissoko
Aya Cissoko. Photo/Lemia Bodden

There were also the launches for Mohamed Amjahid’s Unter Weissen: Was Es Heißt, Privilegiert Zu Sein (Among White People: What it means to be privileged), Nafissatou Dia Diouf’s La Maison Des Epices (The House of Spices), Aya Cissoko’s Die Rückkehr (The Return), Jean-Luc Raharimanana’s Revenir (Returning), Sinzo Aanza’s Que ta volonté soit Kin (Your Will Shall Be Kin), and Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s De Purs Hommes (Pure Men).


Temi Oh with Ainehi Edoro
Temi Oh with Ainehi Edoro. Photo/Lemia Bodden.

Literary festivals involve panels and this one had several events with commentators talking about their preferred topics. One of these was “Africa Optics” moderated by Sieglinde Geisel with a panel of Sagal Abshir, Emmanuel Iduma, Billy Kahora, and Matthias Krupa. Another of the panels was “TransAfrican Membranes. Porosity. Blurred Belonging.” moderated by Sheila Ochugboju. On the panel were Mohamed Amjahid, Aleya Kassam, Ketty Nivyabandi, and Jean-Luc Raharimanana.

Sulaiman Addonia with Sheila Ochugboju
Sulaiman Addonia with Sheila Ochugboju. Photo/Lemia Bodden

Another of the panels was “Virtual Realities, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Lives” moderated by Ainehi Edoro with Japhet Miagotar, Chief Nyamweya, Temi Oh, and Nicolas Premier as panellists. Then there was the Joyce M Muvunyi moderated panel “Text, Body, and Transgression” with Sinzo Aanza, Nafissatou Dia Diouf, Lola Keyezua, Bisrat Negassi, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, and Novuyo Rosa Tsuma.

Keynote Addresses

Souleymane Bachir Diagne with Felwine Sarr
Souleymane Bachir Diagne gives his keynote with Felwine Sarr in the foreground. Photo/Lemia Bodden

Addresses where knowledgeable people speak to audiences about their areas of expertise with a moderator conducting affairs also featured. One of these was given by Chief Nyamweya while there was a conversation between Paula Bulling and Japhet Miagotar. Then there was the Souleymane Bachir Diagne’s address on “African Philosophy and the Languages of Africa” moderated by Felwine Sarr. Another keynote entitled “Whose Imaginary, Anyway?” was given by Taiye Selasi and moderated by Mshai Mwangola.

Taiye Selasi. Photo/Lemia Bodden
Taiye Selasi. Photo/Lemia Bodden

Other activities

At the open mic
At the open mic. Photo/Lemia Bodden

There was a “Poets and Jam” event on the evening of May 25 where Aleya Kassam, Ketty Nivyabandi, Jean-Luc Raharimanana, and Anja Saleh among others performed.

Apart from the literary activities, there was the Membrane exhibition with art by Lola Keyezua, Samira Messner, Fabrice Monteiro, Janine Jembere und Nicole Suzuki, Vitjitua Ndjiharine, Luiza Prado de O. Martins, and Nicolas Premier. There was also a dance performance called “Mash Planet Kigali” choreographed by Yolanda Gutiérrez as well as a live set by Lamin Fofana.

All images in this blog were taken by Lemia Bodden and are courtesy of the festival organisers.

Here are more images

Ketty Nivyabandi
Ketty Nivyabandi. Photo/Lemia Bodden
Léonora Miano with Felwine Sarra. Photo/Lemia Bodden.
Léonora Miano with Felwine Sarra. Photo/Lemia Bodden.
Chief Nyamweya
Chief Nyamweya (left). Photo/Lemia Bodden
Mohamed Mbougar Sarr
Mohamed Mbougar Sarr. Photo/Lemia Bodden
Mshai Mwangola and Sheila Ochugboju
Mshai Mwangola and Sheila Ochugboju. Photo/Lemia Bodden
Emmanuel Iduma (Right) Photo/Lemia Bodden.
Emmanuel Iduma (Right) Photo/Lemia Bodden.
Dzekashu Macviban with Sinzo Aanza
Dzekashu Macviban with Sinzo Aanza. Photo/Lemia Bodden.



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