Thursday, 22 December 2016

Reporting about Africa from Copenhagen

Danish Radio (Danmark Radio) announces that they upgrade news reporting from around the world. One of their head initiatives will be to have an Africa-corrpondent, who will be based in Copenhagen, and it not an until now unknown African city - it is surprisingly, astonishingly and outrageously Copenhagen Dennark. Bravo - thank you very much for this precious christmas gift.

Danmark Radio får Afrika-korespondent. Det lyder flot, men han, Søren Bendixen får base i København - dog vil han være på hyppige rejser. Det vil sige ingen ændring af status quo.. Så hvori består nyheden? Der er allerede fra tid til anden nogle der rejser til det afrikanske kontinent for at skrive ofte med en meget dansk vinkel. Sådan vil det altså også være fremover.

På samme måde er påstanden om opgradering af nyheder fra Sydamerika også tom. Der har, får vi at vide, allerede været en stationeret i Brasilien i de sidste tre år, som har leveret nyheder til DR. Kristian Almblad får blot en ny titel og bliver Sydamerika-korrespondent.

Så meget for verden udenfor vores egen andedam. Der sker imidlertid en reel oprustning af Europa-dækning og især af EU. Endelig sker der en rokade af korrespondenter i USA, således at en familie sammenføring kan falde på plads.

Den julegave som DR stillede i udsigt viser sig at være en stor skuffelse, når man har pakket den op, hvilket sådan set ikke kan komme bag på nogen. Jeg håbede dog i mit stille sind at DR var kommet på bedre tanker. Det er endnu et sørgeligt eksempel på, hvordan verdens gang suser forbi hovederne på danske medier. Og der er tilsyneladende ingen andre danske medie, der tør kritisere DRs luftige og forløjede pressemeddelelse om en styrkelse af sin internationale tilstedeværelse.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Memory

Sometims a memory pops up in my mind. Here is one from 2005. A had just returned from two  years in Uganda. After I had told four different stories from my life in Kampala, there was a woman that responded with: "you are making it very hard for yourself". I was especially a comment to a storry about my friend Richard who died in December 2004.

I 2005 holdt jeg en foredrag på Fyn. Få måneder tidligere var jeg kommet tilbage til Danmark efter to år i Kampala.  Mit foredrag bestod af fire fortællinger. Den ene handlede om min ven Richard som døde i december 2004 - for nu 12 år siden.

Hans officielle dødsårsag var AIDS, men min konklusion i fortællingen om ham var, at jeg slog ham ihjel, fordi jeg tog håbet fra ham, eller at jeg havde muligheden for at redde hans liv (som den eneste) og at jeg fejlede.

Efter mit foredrag og efterfølgende spørgsmål fra publikum, sagde arrangører af aftenen til mig: "Du gør det meget svært for dig selv". Hvad hun mente var vist nok, at jeg i mit liv i Kampala havde sat mig i svære situationer, og at jeg kunne have valgt anderledes og et lettere og mindre smertefuldt liv; sagt en en vis undren.

Hendes sætning var pludselig i mit hoved i eftermiddags, efter ikke at have tænkt på den siden den blev sagt. Jeg ved ikke hvorfor? - heller ikke hvad jeg vil med at fortælle det og gentage hendes ord.


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Colonial interpretations

Africa is very ofter understood through colonial structures, whereas Europe understand itself by European terms. Maybe we ought to change these asyncronous messurements?

Hvis vi accepterer at afrikanske lande forstås ud fra de europæiske kolonimagters indflydelse, så burde vi også forstå europæiske lande efter de samme linjer. Vi må vurderer Europa efter, hvordan Afrika spiller en rolle hos os - og i Danmark fornægter vi det afrikanske.


Friday, 2 December 2016

The things women say to men

Guys, have you ever thought about the things women say to you? - and girls do you know what it means in the other end of the line? I have a very good friend in Kampala - we met more than 10 years ago. Your probably know who you are. Now and then he makes joyful comments about the women around him - and that they call everyone they talk to for sweet heart - and he wonders what these women will do the day that they meet someone they find rreally sweet. I have my own perspective on what women talk about. Here are four examples from my ears over the last 20 years. 


1998:

"Du er meget forsigtig"

Ordene faldt i min lejlighed i Skydebanegade på Vesterbro i København. Sagt af en kvinde, som jeg var venner med på det tidspunkt, dagen derpå. Det var efter, at vi flere gange havde delt min seng uden at have haft sex - eller noget der bare kom i nærheden. Og hun havde ret, det burde vi har haft, mange gange.


2003

"Thank you for being nice to me"

I drove her home in my car on Ggaba Road through Kansanga in Kampala, Uganda. We had been dating and going out for a couple of month. She was also my first girlfriend in Uganda. I recently broke up with her, but I do not remember my reasons. The word fell, when I turned into the road where she were staying.


2009

"It was nice"

In a hotel room in Polyview Hotel in Kisumu, Kenya. It was a gentle and beautiful woman's reply to something I said just after we had sex in a January afternoon. She was miss sweet and soft.


2015

"Thank you for your kindness"

I was in Arusha, Tanzania. Just before I was going to leave on the shuttle bus to Nairobi, I recieved these sweet words an sms from a woman in a provicial town further south in Tanzania, where I had been a few days earlier.


What does it all mean? There has been a lot of other words from women, but these are some of the more memorable and intimate. Read between the lines.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A woman's touch

In a rare moment I come close enough to a woman to feel something again. Here is a memory from a September afternoon. It is when the slightest touch brings you further into exstacy than the wildest orgasm. 

Jeg tænker på en kvinde. Alt er som forandret efter at have været sammen med hende. Der er forskel. Jeg havde glemt, hvordan det føltes. Blot at kysse hende på ryggen var alt nok – som en orgasme dybt inde i en kvindes kusse med min tunge forsvundet i mørket. Det er dejligt igen at føle noget virkeligt.

Alligevel er jeg altid interesseret i den næste smukke kvinde, jeg ser. Jeg er dem alle taknemmelige. De har lært mig alt, hvad jeg ved.

Bagefter siger hun: ”Thank you for your kindness”. Var det dét, jeg var. Kind. Hun siger, at jeg var venlig. Det betyder ikke det samme. But I was kind. Jeg husker ikke at have været langsom på præcis den måde før. Det hedder det ikke. Det hedder tålmodig, men tålmodig er noget andet. Den stille og forsagte langsommelighed, hvormed vi forsigtigt kom tættere på hinanden var for mig bedre end et hvert tænkeligt klimaks. Jeg troede ikke det ville ske.

Første gang jeg let berørte hendes knæ med mine højre hånd kiggede hun køligt på mig. Det var kun et kort glimt. Hun syntes ikke om min tilnærmelse. Det kom bag på hende, fordi der indtil videre ikke var noget intimt imellem os. Vores samtale var høflig. Min berøring faldt på et tidspunkt, hvor vi næsten ikke talte sammen. De lange pauser var ikke naturlige, men jeg forsøgte derimod at fylde tiden ud for at bevare illusionen om de næste skridt.


(skrevet 12. september 2015)

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Africa does not exist

Jeg er blevet mere og mere træt af betegnelsen Afrika. Ikke alene er det en stærkt generaliserende betegnelse for et stort geografisk område, men anvendelsen af Afrika virker også stigmatiserende. Måske burde vi derfor tænke os mere om, når vi bruger ordet.

The notion of Africa is getting more and more on my nerves. There is something problemtic about how we in the western world perceive places on the African continent and the people who live there.

I have just finished reading the novel "Il faut beaucoup aimer les hommes" (One must care much for men) written by Marie Darrieussecq. The male character Kouhouesso, a man from Congo, says "Africa does not exist". It is his response to his French lover Solange, when she declares that she wants to go to Africa. She insists and "he laughed his perculiar and sharp laughter, which sounded like he had borrowed it from another body". Thereafter he continues: "Africa is a fiction created by anthropoligists. There is not only one, but several Africas. The same goes for the black color, it is invented".
 

Monday evening a few weeks ago in Copenhagen I attended a seminar hosted by Danish Athors Society called An evening of African literatur. The program was described by the organiser in this way:



"An evening of African literatur

We invite you to an evening of African literature at the Danish Authors' Society. April 18th, 6:30-10 p.m.

Right now, African literature is getting a lot of attention, with new voices rising, and publishing houses, literary festivals, blogs and gatherings emerging all over the African continent. At the Danish Authors' Society, we wish to give the Danish reading public an opportunity to take part in and experience a sample of this new development by hosting an evening of readings and insights into African literature and the conditions for writing, publishing and translating texts from the continent.

Programme:

Publisher Simon Darø Kristensen of the publishing house Korridor

On publishing literature from non-Western countries in Denmark.

Forlaget Korridor is a small independent publishing house for fiction, poetry and sound art and a place of experiments and projects for everything literary: readings, salons, exhibitions and encounters between Danish and foreign writers. Korridor has published works by Brian Chikwava, Warsan Shire, Nader Ebrahimi, Dima Wannous, Rana Zeid and Tabish Khair, amongst others.

Literary translator Juliane Wammen

On the challenges of translating English-language literature by African writers.

Juliane Wammen has so far translated works by Brian Chikwava, Taiye Selasi and Teju Cole. She is currently working on Dambudzo Marecheras classic text from 1978, The House of Hunger, to be published in Danish for the first time this spring.

Danish author Trine Andersen

A brief introduction to Billy Kahora's works.

In cooperation with Malawian author Shadreck Chikoti, Trine Andersen has co-founded the publishing house Panafrica Publishers in Lilongwe, Malawi. The publishing house is dedicated to publishing literature by African authors for an African readership.

Kenyan author and co-founder of Kwani Trust, Billy Kahora

Billy Kahora will read from his works and talk about current African literature, its challenges and themes.

Billy Kahora lives and works in Nairobi. He writes fiction and creative non-fiction, and his works have been published in various international magazines such as Granta, Vanity Fair and Kwani. In 2012 and 2014, one of his short stories was shortlisted for the Caine Prize, the most prestigious literary award on the African continent.

The documentary novel, The True Story of David Munyakei, was published in 2007, and the short story collection The Cape Cod Bicycle War and Other Youthful Follies will be published in August 2016.

Besides writing, Billy Kahora is and editor and co-founder of the Kenyan publishing house Kwani Trust. Kwani publishes literature written by authors from most of the African continent.

Kahora studied journalism, English and creative writing at Edinburgh University, UK, and Rhodes University, South Africa".



I ask myself if the attention around African literature is real. Maybe it is just part of an imaginary hype about things from Africa?

It strikes me that there is a big difference in our perception of Africa compared to other geographical areas around the world. We tend to maintain Africa in a colonial cage.

Three years ago there was a festival in Copenhagen called Images of Utopia. As a part of the festival there was a literary program on Dronning Louises Bridge organised by the small and well esteemed publisher Korridor. The above mentioned Kenyan author Billy Kahora was part of the program. In the festival also participated authors from Chile, Zimbabwe and Bolivia. One session in the festival was named "African writing" in which Billy Kahora took part. The authors from Chile and Bolivia were not labeled under a generalised catagory but presented by names and countries.

Billy Kahora
Why this difference? - maybe it seems so surprising for us that their is such a thing as African writing so we need to highlight it! It comfirms how we still imprison people from African countries inside a stigma. It would not have been very difficult to have presented all the authors in the festival equally.

The above mentioned seminar in Danish Authors Society also revealed similar kind of stigmas about other parts of the world. In the discussion about translation of so-called non-western literature the notion "the warm countries" was mentioned as a description for the kind of literature in question, but it was never specified if it was in the sense warm-blooded or an expression of temperature.

My personal experience is that it can be rather hot in Spain and Greece as well as it can in the southern part of United States. But the discussion was about literature from the African continent and Southeast Asian countries.

Several writers from countries on the African continent have begun to complain about the anthropological perspective that we in the western world use when we relate to writers from outside the western world. In the west we tend to read literature and experience art as a way of understanding culture - instead of perceiving it as art and literature.

OGOJIII 2/2016

In an essay in the latest issue of the magazine "OGOJIII" the Nigerian novelist Chika Unigwe are qouted for saying that she enjoys literary festivals for "the really stimulating conversations" they provide, but she laments western audiences' tendency to read African literature as anthropological works rather than novels - and she continues by saying:

"I was once in a festival at a college somewhere in the US, and one of the professors told me how much students had learned about Nigeria through reading my work, which he was teaching. I was stunned to hear that the students take a crash course in Nigerian history before reading the novel, so they get a sense of Nigeria. We read American and British writers in college without our professors giving us a crash course in the history and future of the US or Britain".

Chika Unigwe

This anthropological perspective was also a very active part of the discussion in the seminar held by Danish Authors Society. It was highlighted that an important motivation for reading literature from African countries was to understand the culture of these countries.

In the discussion of translating English-language literature by African writes it was very much emphasized as a challenge. Juliane Wammen said, that it is much easier to translate a novel taking place in New York City because the readers will know a lot more about New York than they have knowledge about Harare. She mentions an exampel from her present translation of "House of Hunger" by Dambudzo Marecheras from Zimbabwe. In the book there is an type of tree that she does not know how to translate. But maybe it is not necessary to explain what kind of tree it is. The reader does not need an explanation. We can think for ourselves. It might also be a misconception that we know about New York. Maybe we think we do. We have watched a lot of American films and TV-series, but do we know New York?

In the end of the seminar Billy Kahora read from a semi-fictional text about his childhood in an area of Nairobi. In the text he mentions the subburb Buru Buru where he grew up and he also mentions Tom Mboya Street in downtown Nairobi.

In both cases it will develop specific and very realistic images in my mind, because I have been there many times, but the poeple listening that have never been in Kenya or even on the African continent do not need explanations of what Tom Mboya Street looks like to understand Billy Kahoras story. A translation of Billy Kahoras writing ought not to be neither more or less complicated than a translation of Paul Auster.


Let us wake up and treat each other as human beings regardless of color, geographical origin or cultural heritage. Literature ought to be read as literature - not used as supplementary reading for a history course.

In the conclusion of the above cited essay in OGOJIII Unigwe suggest a way to escape the anthropology trap: "Perhaps organisers (of festivals) could move away from conversations on African literature where they only have African writers to conversations on, for example, psychological literature, which is not limited to writers from African".