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Vamba Sherif

Vamba Sherif - foto Serge Ligtenberg
Vamba Sherif - foto Serge Ligtenberg

(Northern Liberia, 1973) is one of the most important contemporary Dutch writers of African origin. Although he has lived in the Netherlands since 1993, speaks Dutch, and studied law in the country, his first novel Het land van de vaders (Land of the Fathers, 1999) and his latest novel Zwijgplicht (Oath of Secrecy, 2007) are set in Africa. The latter was inspired by the author's encounter with Liberian rebel leader Charles Taylor. In this whodunit about a man investigating a disappearance, Sherif depits the way power and its abuse function in Africa. Land of the Fathers is partly based on his grandmother's stories, and is about the clash between slaves returning from the US and other Liberians. In his novel The Witness, he sharply portrays present day The Netherlands as a migration country in the making. His most recent novel is The Black Napoleon (2015), on Samori Touré who, in the second half of the 19th century founded the Wasulu-empire, in areas in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Burkina Faso. The impact of what happened during Samori's reign and his fights against the French and the British is still being felt today.
Sherif spent part of his youth in Kuwait, where his father was a university lecturer. At a young age he spoke three African languages, English, and Arabic, and he acquainted himself with African, English and Arabic literature. He fled Kuwait during the Gulf War and came to the Netherlands via Syria.

(WIN2005)

Archive available for: Vamba Sherif

  • Winternachten 2015 – SATURDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    The Text of My Life: Vamba Sherif

    In the Filmhuis Studio the festival's guest writers present their favourite literary texts and explain why a particular poem, novel excerpt, or song lyric influenced their life and work. Which memory, what feeling does this text call up for them? A continuous interview programme, in which the audience also talks with the writers. Hosted by Wim Brands and Fidan Ekiz. In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2015 – SATURDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    This is Our Way — Public Discussion

    This is our way, and that is their way... How do you deal with one another in an environment where so many cultures live side by side? What language do you speak? What do you do on one another's holidays? In the Netherlands we can't quite figure it out. Tonight three writers—two of them from countries with long histories of multiculturalism—provide ideas for dos and don'ts. No laws, just manners. The public will discuss these ideas. Do we adopt them or not? In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2012

    African Meet & Greet in Dakota Theater

    With: Adejoke Babington-Ashaye, Helon Habila, Kopano Matlwa, Nancy-Josee Ntumba Ciakudia, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Vamba Sherif

    This year Writers Unlimited goes into town, organising informal meetings with the foreign writers. On Saturday 21 January the festival hits Theater Dakota, for a Meet & Greet with the African writers Helon Habila (winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize), Kopano Matlwa (rising star in South African literature) and Nii Ayikwei Parkes (poet, writer and BBC radio commentator). Also a performance by singer and lawyer Adejoke Babington-Ashaye!

  • Zuid-Afrika 2010

    Poetry Lunch Hour

    With: Bernice Chauly, Lamis Saidi, Raj Mohan, Vamba Sherif

    Poetry readings by Lamis Saidi (Algeria), Vamba Sherif (Liberia/Netherlands), Raj Mohan (Suriname/Netherlands), Bernice Chauly (Malaysia), and the South-African poets Nunke Khadimo, Mannini Mokhotu, Moenier Adams, Ronelda Kamfer and singer Reba Son.

  • Zuid-Afrika 2010

    Reading in Athol Fugard Theatre Cape Town

    With: Bernice Chauly, Lamis Saidi, Raj Mohan, Vamba Sherif

    An evening with poetry and prose readings by Bernice Chauly (Malaysia), Lamis Saïdi (Algeria), Vamba Sherif (Libera/The Netherlands), Raj Mohan (Suriname/The Netherlands), Urvashi Butalia (India), the singer Reba Son (India), and the South-African authors André Brink, Nunke Khadimo, Mannini Mokhothu and Neo Muyanga.

  • Winternachten 2010 – Winternachten 2

    The need for chaos

    Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe/Switzerland) and Vamba Sherif (the Netherlands/Liberia) both live in a very much regulated society, but write about chaotic and deregulated societies. Joris Luyendijk talks to them about the question whether chaos and disorder are a prerequisite without which no literature would come about – think about Dutch writers travelling to the Balkan or Afghanistan for inspiration. Do Dutch writers have to look for chaos in order to write literature which really matters? Or do you, as a writer, have to be afraid of chaos and even in the most extreme circumstances have to go in search for something lasting? One can wonder if Gappah and Sherif would have become writers had they been born in the quiet surroundings of the Alps or the flat and regimented landscape of the Netherlands.
    In English.

  • Winternachten 2006 – WINTERNACHT 1

    The remake of Uncle Tom's cabin

    "Aha, you must be the lady who started the civil war and has abolished slavery", said president Lincoln at the time to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's cabin. Can literature have such an important role? When history has overtaken fiction, as is the case in this novel, must a novel be adapted to make it more relevant? Writers Frank Martinus Arion, Vamba Sherif and Christine Otten attempt this. They rewrite parts of Uncle Tom's cabin and explain why their version is better suited to the modern reader than the original. Panel chairman is Pieter Steinz. Dutch spoken.

  • Winternachten 2001

    Live Anthology and Debate

    With: Anna Enquist, Ardashir Vakil, Bas Heijne, Basil Appollis, Breyten Breytenbach, Ellen Ombre, Henk van Woerden, Ian Buruma, Jan Eijkelboom, Jit Narain, Lasana M. Sekou, Michaël Zeeman, Rajeev Balasubramanyam, Vamba Sherif

    What is the most beautiful poem on diaspora? A number of Winternachten guests read their favourite poem from each other's literatures. The writers were introduced by Basil Appollis.
    Dutch writer Henk van Woerden gave the introductory lecture (in Dutch) to a debate on the theme of 'diaspora and the writer'. This debate (in English), hosted by Michaël Zeeman, appeared to be a good start for the Boekenweek, a annual event for the promotion of Dutch literature, following a few weeks later in The Netherlands.

  • Winternachten 2001 – Winternacht 2

    Connected through slavery and colonialism

    Ellen Ombre, the venomously and precisely observing Surinamese-Dutch writer, poet Lasana M. Sekou of St Maarten, and Netherlands-based Liberian writer Vamba Sherif, share a common offspring. The West African history of slavery and colonialism ties up these writers, born so far apart. Hosted by Ed van Eeden (Dutch spoken).