Chris Abani is the official headliner at Berlin´s first African book festival “Writing in Migration” which takes place from 26th-28th of April at Babylon. The author and poet is one of the most influential Nigerian artists of our times. He is part of a new generation of African writers who share their experiences of migration and exile through their literature and come to Berlin for a three-day long festival in April.

Chris Abani has published six books so far, one being his novel Masters of the Board (1985) which he already wrote as a teenager. The political thriller tells the story of a military coup which lead to Abani´s multiple arrests and imprisonment. The publication of his second novel, Sirocco (1987), again elicited a violent reaction from the authorities. They destroyed all copies of the book, closed down the publishing house that had issued it and arrested the writer once again, holding him for a year at maximum security prison in Lagos. In 1990, the staging of his play Song of a Broken Flute, which challenged the regime’s position on human rights, once more led to the author’s arrest and incarceration. This time, he was sentenced to death without trial. He spent another year in prison, six months in solitary confinement, and was eventually released thanks to his friend’s financial intervention. He left for London shortly afterwards and, in 1999, fearing for his life, he moved to the United States.

“When a war is over, it takes another 10 years for a war to be really over. And so I grew up in the detritus of that war; it is something that has haunted me for a long time.”

Chris Abani

In one of his best-known novels, GraceLand (2004), Abani examines close to the story of his own life the realities of Nigeria: tribalism, rural depopulation, political uprising followed by corruption and yet another military dictatorship, migration and exile. Here he draws a portrait of the Nigerian social and political landscape, which is accurate still today.

In Chris Abani the festival „Writing in Migration“ 2018 has found a headliner who will reflect on African realities in diaspora through poetry and prose, in lectures and readings as well as in panel discussions. How does one live and write after a forced step into displacement? How do writers approach the constant flux of place, and identity? Are they still bound by tradition or being truthful to notions of an “African Identity”?

For more details on the program click here

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