For 2013 Babel traces a subjective trajectory across the African continent in search of young voices and new literatures in the French language.
To move within such a broad and culturally varied landscape, Babel followed precise guidelines: the hybridization of French with local languages or orality; the reinterpretation of tradition in relation to African, French and global cultures; the recent revolutions in the literary industry; a geographic arc starting with Madagascar, passing through the Maghreb and gradually entering the continent.
Babel’s research was largely determined by the fact that African literature is scarcely distributed within the actual continent, and is therefore often influenced by the rules of the Western cultural market with its flair for mainstream genres and exoticism.
Babel 2013 is a project that focuses on African literature in the making. The outcome of this research is a festival that welcomes some of the most interesting and surprising young African writers, as well as the publications that Babel has edited with Swiss and Italian publishers and media, translating and diffusing these authors.
Babel opens with the meeting between Madagascan writer Jean-Luc Raharimanana, editor of an uplifting series of young African writers, and Marie-José Hoyet; it moves on to Tunisia with a conversation between Azza Filali, author of a novel that confronts the void of the recent revolution, and Elisabeth Daldoul, editor of the publishing house Elyzad; then to Algeria, with Kamel Daoud, extraordinary writer and journalist, and Sofiane Hadjadj, editor of Barzakh, one of the most lively young African publishers; arriving in Mali, with a meeting between Italian ethnologist Barbara Fiore and musician Fadimata Walet Oumar, followed by a concert by Tartit, the Tuareg band borne from the union of women in refugee camps, one of the best translators of the rhythms and the silences of the Sahara desert into music.
On Sunday the literary program moves on to an encounter between Switzerland and Congo Kinshasa, with young Swiss author Douna Loup, who has written the story that Gabriel Nganga Nseka has lived and desired to tell orally; then to Cameroun, with Patrice Nganang who in his recent book La Saison des prunes masterfully combines orality and poetry, past and present; to come to an end a meeting organised by cultural association Sembura, bringing us to Rwanda and Burundi, with writer and playwright Dorcy Rugamba and young author Roland Rugero.
Beyond the word’s boundaries
The «Beyond the word’s boundaries» program stretches out to a land with no borders, the immense spaces of the Sahara desert, welcoming one of the most hypnotic and mysterious bands of the contemporary African music scene, the Tuareg musicians Tartit; cineBabel travels through time with a series of films made by African directors, which will be shown in the months before and after Babel. For the festivals opening cineBabel proposes the cinematic translation of the unfinished work by Albert Camus “The first man” directed by Gianni Amelio; finally, artBabel focuses on the festival infrastructures, with guest artists who are developing the Babel tent and creating a projection cabin.
Beyond the festival boundaries
The work behind each edition builds up a huge potential of knowledge, reflections, meetings and contacts. Year after year Babel develops new projects to enact this potential so that the festival research can continue to generate meaning and expand, in space and time. In 2013 all this effort was awarded with two of the most important Swiss cultural prizes, awarded by the Federal Office of Culture: “The Swiss Literature Prize for translation and literary mediation”.