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«To-gather» Literature

To-gather: litafrika

Poetry of a Continent

exhibition

Venue: Strauhof Zurich
Dates: Friday 3 June – Sunday 4 September 2022

Vernissage Thursday 2 June 2022, 6-9pm with a performance by the poet Mbene Mwambene, speech by the translator Zineb Benkhelifa and introduction by the curatorial duo Rémi Jaccard and Christa Baumberger.

See the full programme

The «To-gather» International Collaboration grant supports the development and testing of new long-term frameworks and methodologies for working internationally premised on more equitable and sustainable dialogues between cultures.

Read more about the funding structure.

“litafrika” is an open archive literary exhibition project in three parts (2022-2024) organised by Swiss partners Litar Foundation and Strauhof Zurich together with South African/Kenyan writer, editor, and publisher Zukiswa Wanner. The project revolves around the central questions: “How do we read and narrate ‘Africa’ – a continent and its cultural diversity?” The exhibition trilogy follows a participatory process, where each edition will incorporate the themes and results from the previous edition to set a new focus. The project aims to be an intercontinental platform for a long-term dialogue with African and European authors, translators and publishers.

The first exhibition, “Poetry of a Continent” from 3 June – 4 September 2022, is curated by Christa Baumberger and Rémi Jaccard, in dialogue with partners from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and other countries. It sets out to contextualise the European perspective on African literatures. The starting point for the exhibition is the monumental anthology “Afrika im Gedicht” (Zurich 2015). Edited by Al Imfeld (1935–2017), the book covers the period from 1960 to 2014 and contains more than 550 poems from all parts of the African continent. Imfeld had a lasting influence on the promotion of African literatures in Switzerland over decades. His articles and appearances introduced countless writers from Africa to German-speaking readers and he helped set up a range of funding institutions. Although the anthology grew from a Eurocentric starting point, it was largely the writers themselves who selected the poems included.

“Poetry of a Continent” offers a multisensory experience of a sample of poems in their original languages and German translation. The selection spans a wide variety from post-colonial classics to the contemporary slam and spoken-word scenes. Based on the poems, themes such as multilingualism, translation, promotion and reception of African poetry since 1960 are explored. The poets themselves also take the stage, giving insights into their work and rendering Africa’s literary and linguistic diversity visible. The exhibition also addresses the promotion and reception of these poetries in the German-speaking world and the ambivalence of the Swiss perspective. An intercontinental group of African and European authors, translators and publishers will be invited to share their perspectives on the presented poems and cultural mediation in an ongoing programme of readings, roundtable discussions and lunchtime lectures.

The second exhibition “Soundscape Africa” in summer 2023 will be curated by Zukiswa Wanner and presents current developments and tendencies. The third exhibition “Afrotopia” in 2024 will be jointly developed in the course of the project.

ABOUT THE PARTNERS

Litar Foundation designs and supports projects in the fields of literature, literary translation and the media. Litar aims to place emphasis and initiate dialogue on lesser-known topics as well as to discover new horizons. For this purpose, Litar focuses on thematic programmes that span over several years and include different formats of mediation, such as events, publications and exhibitions. The main goal is to spark curiosity for lesser-known literary topics. In a fast-paced world, Litar takes the time to engage with a topic in depth. This lasting approach fosters regional, national and
international networking, which can continue to have effect beyond the individual
programme. Since 2019, the program “Voices of…” places a special emphasis on literatures from the African continent and entails different projects.

Strauhof is a space for cultural education, through which literature is mediated and presented in a variety of ways. Strauhof organise exhibitions, Wild Cards and events that engage with authors, thematic foci as well as questions regarding the
production of literature; in doing so, the institution respects both the literary canon and the principle of diversity. Strauhof understands literature as an indicator, impetus and catalyst of a complex society. At the same time, its programme aims to foster experiments and to explore historical or current processes that transcend the field of literature. In order to meet these goals, Strauhof relies on exchange with other arts or science fields as well as on co-operations with specialists, experts and institutions. Strauhof is located in the centre of Zurich’s old town and is run by the non-profit association “Literaturmuseum Zürich” on behalf of the City of Zurich since 2015. The Strauhof has a long and diverse tradition as an exhibition space; for contemporary and culture-historical exhibitions from 1950 to 2002 as the City Art Chamber as well as for literary exhibitions from 2002 to 2013 as the Literature Museum Strauhof.

BIOGRAPHIES

Christa Baumberger (*1974), director of Litar Foundation Zurich, Dr. phil., literary scholar, publisher and curator. She studied German and French languages and literatures in Zurich, Paris and Leipzig. PhD in 2005 as part of a research project of the Swiss National Science Foundation SNF on multilingualism in literature, cultural exchange and literary translation (Universities of Zurich, Neuchâtel and Lausanne). Project manager of the international translation festival “4+1 übersetzen traduire tradurre translatar”, organized by Pro Helvetia, ch Foundation and Centre de traduction littéraire of the University of Lausanne (2006). Co-founder and editorial director of the trilingual (German, French, Italian) Swiss literary yearbook “Viceversa Literatur” (2006-2009). From 2009 to 2018, she was curator of collections and head of publications at the Swiss Literary Archives of the National Library in Bern. Curation of various exhibitions: “DADA original”, 2016; “Friedrich Glauser – Ce n’est pas très beau…”, 2016; “Im Fluss”, 2020. Since 2018, she is the director of the Litar Foundation for literature and translation. In addition, she is member of various juries and committees: member of the Board of Trustees of the Christoph Geiser Foundation (since 2021), Aargauer Kuratorium (since 2017), external expert on the Pro Helvetia literature jury (2015).

Rémi Jaccard (*1980), director of Strauhof Zurich, Dr. phil., art historian and curator. Doctorate in 2012 at the Institute for Art History at the University of Zurich. From 2013 to 2014, he was co-founder and co-director of the Musée Visionnaire in Zurich. From 2015 to 2018, he reopened and co-directed Strauhof with Gesa Schneider; since 2019, he has been the director of Strauhof Zurich. In that capacity, he has curated numerous exhibitions, including: “Friedrich Glauser – Ce n’est pas très beau” (2016, with Christa Baumberger); “Frischs Fiche und andere Geschichten aus dem Kalten Krieg …” (2017, with Philip Sippel); “Frankenstein – Von Mary Shelley zum Silicon Valley” (2018, with Roland Fischer and Philip Sippel); or “Gedicht / Gesicht” (2019, with Philip Sippel). Currently, the exhibition “Kurt Marti – Eros. Engagement. Endlichkeit”, which he curated together with Andreas Mauz and Philip Sippel, can be seen.

Nicole Schmid (*1993), research assistant Litar Foundation Zurich, MA, studied German and English languages and literatures at the University of Zurich. In the context of her English studies, she focused on global and postcolonial literatures. She is a research assistant to the project “litafrika” and co-ordinates the “Literary Lunches” as well as the ongoing operations of Litar. In addition to her engagement for Litar, she works for the Schauspielhaus Zurich. During her literary studies at the University of Zurich, she has gained various insights into the conception, implementation and communication of literary exhibitions and events at Strauhof Zurich. From 2020 to 2021, Nicole Schmid made the inventory of Al Imfeld’s collection of articles, and will contribute her knowledge of the archival material to the exhibition.

Zukiswa Wanner (*1976) is a writer, editor, and publisher born in Zambia, raised in Zimbabwe and currently based in Kenya but who considers the whole African continent her home. Her debut novel, “The Madams” (2006), was shortlisted for the 2007 K. Sello Duiker Award. Her third novel “Men of the South” (2010), was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book 2011 and the Herman Charles Bosman Award. In 2014, she was selected as one of the Africa39 sub-Saharan writers under 40 with the potential and talent to define trends in African literature. In 2018, she set up her publishing company Paivapo, with a focus on African literature in Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone African regions. The same year she was a fellow at the University of Johannesburg’s “Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Studies” (JIAS). In 2020, she was awarded the Goethe Medal alongside Ian McEwan and Elvira Espejo Ayca, making Wanner the first African woman to win the award. Zukiswa Wanner has been involved in many initiatives: “The Read SA Initiative” (2009) was a campaign to connect South Africans, through reading books by their co-citizens. The “Artistic Encounters series” (2017-2019), brings together the work of two different artists in
one space, at the same time. “#AfroYoungAdult” (2019) is a talent search for young adult fiction from Africa. In 2020, she founded the virtual literary festival “Afrolit Sans Frontières” as a response to the curfews and lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic on the African continent. The festival has featured writers of African origin from 25 countries around the world. “Virtually Yours” (2020-) is a series of online discussions through which she explores contemporary African literature together with authors.