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Petina Gappah

Petina Gappah - foto Patrick Bertschmann
Petina Gappah - foto Patrick Bertschmann

(Zimbabwe, 1971) debuted in 2009 with the short-story collection An Elegy for Easterly, followed by her first novel The Book of Memory (2015) and another story collection, Rotten Row (2016). Her new book Out of Darkness, Shining Light tells the story of the perilous, months-long trek made in 1873 by 69 workers to transport the body of the explorer David Livinstone from central Africa to the Zanzibar coast, so it could eventually be buried in England. "I write the history of the black people of Zimbabwe, those about whom nobody ever speaks." Gappah studied law in Zimbabwe and Cambridge, worked as a lawyer, and lives in Berlin as artist-in-residence. She has wone many international prizes for her work.

(WN 2020)

Archive available for: Petina Gappah

  • Winternachten 2020

    Opening Night

    With: Adriaan van Dis, Angelina Enny, Antjie Krog, Cynthia Mc Leod, Ellen Deckwitz, Goenawan Mohamad, Jolyn Phillips, Karin Amatmoekrim, Manon Uphoff, Nelleke Noordervliet, Petina Gappah, Reggie Baay, Rosabelle Illes, Shailesh Bahoran, Simon(e) van Saarloos, Ton van de Langkruis

    A fantastic line-up of Dutch and international authors provide a preview of the festival with their new poetry and prose, mixed with dance performances by Shailesh Bahoran. This festive evening celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Winternachten festival with the presentation of the (Dutch language) anniversary anthology De verovering van Jupiter (Over de dekolonisatie van de geest) (Conquering Jupiter: On decolonising the mind).

    At the behest of Writers Unlimited, all contributors wrote a short essay, story or poem for the anthology to reflect on the festival theme. It is a unique collection of - no surprise here - 25 wonderful pieces of writing edited by Toef Jaeger and published by Jurgen Maas. During the festival it will be available at the on-site De Vries Van Stockum bookstore and from 14 January 2020 at regular bookstores and online.

    In the same venue in which the first Indonesian Winternacht (forerunner of Winternachten Festival) took place in 1995 - the Theater aan het Spui - on this jubilee opening night we proudly present top (inter)national writers that have developed a special bond with our festival and its audience. These include: Goenawan Mahamad (Indonesia), who performed at the first Winternacht, Adriaan van Dis, Antjie Krog (South Africa), Nelleke Noordervliet, Reggie Baay, Manon Uphoff and Cynthia McLeod. Tip: be sure to look up these writers in our amazing online video archive!

    Writers Unlimited will always continue to seek out talent, and in 25 years has presented many debuting local and foreign writers. How wonderful, then, to welcome on this evening - once again, or for the first time: Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe), Angelina Enny (Indonesia), Rosabelle Illes (Aruba), Jolyn Phillips (South Africa) and, from the Netherlands, Karin Amatmoekrim, Simon(e) van Saarloos and Ellen Deckwitz. We await their appearances and recitations with bated breath.

    Theatre maker, choreographer and hiphop innovator Shailesh Bahoran performs parts of his dance solo Heritage that was inspired by his Hindostani background.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Friday Night Unlimited

    Free at Last: A Day of Decolonised Life

    Exciting! Are these fairy tales or is this finally a decolonised world? Writers Unlimited asked a very international group of eight authors to sum up a day of colonisation-free existence in poetry or prose. Eight days of liberation, each in their own way.

    In this event you will see and hear Akwasi, the Dutch rapper, actor and writer of Ghanaian background; Barbaros Altuğ, the Turkish writer, journalist and literary agent; Asmaa Azaizeh, Palestinian poet, journalist and cultural curator born in Lower Galilee in Israel's north; Petina Gappah, lawyer and writer from Zimbabwe; Cağla Meknuze, jounalist and poet from Turkey; Jolyn Phillips, writer, poet and composer from South Africa; Simon(e) van Saarloos, American-Dutch writer and philosopher; and Vamba Sherif, Liberian-Dutch writer and journalist.

    The authors present their work in their preferred writing language or mother tongue; Dutch and English translations are projected simultaneously.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Friday Night Unlimited

    Fifty Ways to Free Your Language

    How do writers relate to decolonizing language and literature, not only in their subject matter but also in the form of their poetry and stories?

    During the Friday Night Unlimited program, several events will focus on the decolonization of the mind. How free is our mind, what does freedom mean, and are we truly free, or caught in the framework of our culture, society and history? This theme is partly based on the essay collection Decolonizing the Mind by the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o, in which he discusses colonized language and how its influence is still notable. Since he believes that language plays a constructive role in culture, history and identity, he argues for "linguistic decolonization".

    In this first program, Simone Zeefuik discusses this subject with poet Simone Atangana Bekone (Netherlands), poet and writer Antjie Krog (South Africa) and writer Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe).

    Tip: Petina Gappah also appears at Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January, at Theater aan het Spui; Antjie Krog appears at Saturday Night Unlimited, 18 January, and during the Writers Unlimited New Year's Concert on Sunday afternoon, 19 January, at the Zuiderstrand Theatre.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Friday Night Unlimited

    Book of My Life: Petina Gappah

    Writers tell us about their favourite book: the book that inspires or touches them, that set their artistic, moral or intellectual compass. In short, the book they would recommend to everyone. Interview: Jet Steinz.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Friday Night Unlimited

    Books Unlimited: Petina Gappah & Asmaa Azaizeh

    Get to know international literary stars and their recent books. Journalist and De Gids editor Fiep van Bodegom talks to Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah about her latest novel, Out of Darkness, Shining Light, and Palestinian poet Asmaa Azaizeh about her new poetry collection, Do Not Believe Me When I Talk to You About War.

    "This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land." So begins Petina Gappah's powerful novel - the captivating story of the men and women who carried explorer and missionary David Livingstone's body, his papers and his maps 1500 miles across 19th-century Africa. The story is narrated by Halima, Livingstone's sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave.

    Asmaa Azaizeh is a Palestinian poet, journalist and cultural curator who currently lives and works in Haifa. Since 2011, she has published two poetry collections and a poetry anthology.

    Tip: Petina Gappah will also appear at Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January at Theater aan het Spui; Azmaa Azaizeh also appears at the Free the Word - Oxfam Novib PEN Awards Night on Thursday, 16 January at Theater aan het Spui, and during the Writers Unlimited New Year's Concert on Sunday, 19 January at the Zuiderstrand Theatre.

  • Winternachten 2016

    World Storytelling at the Institute of Social Studies

    With: Kees Biekart, Petina Gappah

    Listen to stories from near and far on the theme of "With the Best of Intentions". They will be told by African, Latin American and Asian students, as well as festival guest Petina Gappah. Do you have a story that fits the bill? Come down to the ISS and get registered. In English

  • Winternachten 2016 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Where Can You Hide?

    Four innocent young women looking for refuge. In Forgotten, José Eduardo Agualusa tells the story of Ludo, who locks herself in her home on the eve of Angola's independence. She stays there for three decades while wars rage outside. In The Book of Memory, Petina Gappah gives voice to an albino girl named Memory who is abused by her white adoptive father. The girl tells her shocking story from a jail cell. In Joanna Bator's novel Dark, almost Night, Alicja tries to uncover her deceased sister's secret in the abandoned house on the Polish-German border where she once lived with her family. And in his new novel Fire Stack, György Dragomán introduces Emma, a girl whose grandmother picks her up from an orphanage in the middle of the Romanian revolution.

  • Winternachten 2016 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Seven Deadly Sins

    Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. The seven deadly sins are inseparable from literature, film and visual art. The festival asked seven authors to each choose one and write a fresh text about it. Tonight you'll hear sinful stories from home and abroad, with accompanying music by Dick van der Harst. A superb literary-musical programme to enjoy with abandon. José Eduardo Agualusa, Slavenka Drakulić, Mira Feticu, Petina Gappah, Daan Heerma van Voss, Andrej Kurkov and Neel Mukherjee read in their own language, with simultaneous translations projected in English and Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2016 – Friday Night Unlimited

    The Text of My Life: Petina Gappah

    In Filmhuis Studio A 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 Arjan Peters. In English

    Petina Gappah replaces Alaa al Aswani for this event.

  • Antillen 2012

    Krusa Laman - Villa Maria Curaçao

    With: Cathleen Giterson, David Van Reybrouck, Favell Maduro, Frank Martinus Arion, Grupo Serenada, Guineta de Palm, Helon Habila, Lucille Berry-Haseth, Merietza Haakmat, Petina Gappah, Rodaan Al Galidi

    A wonderful evening full of stories, poems and songs in a beautiful open air theatre in Curaçao, Villa Maria. Merietza Haakmat & Favell Maduro will be the MC's for the Belgian writer David van Reybrouck, the poet from Curaçao Lucille Berry-Haseth, writer Petina Gappah from Zimbabwe, the singers of Serenada, the stories by Guineta de Palm, writer Helon Habila from Nigeria, author Cathleen Giterson from Curaçao and poet Rodaan Al Galidi from The Netherlands. All authors will perform in their own language. Translations to English and Papiamentu will be projected on screen simultaneously.

  • Antillen 2012

    Literary debate in Teatro Luna Blou - Curaçao

    With: David Van Reybrouck, Helon Habila, Mario Kleinmoedig, Miriam Sluis, Petina Gappah, Rhazul and his Group, Richenel Ansano, Rodaan Al Galidi, Sheila Payne

    An evening with storytelling, writers conversations and readings. The evening opens with storyteller Sheila Payne. Then Mario Kleinmoedig will moderate to talks with writers on the theme 'The Power of Memory'. Helon Habila (Nigeria/USA) and David van Reybrouck (Belgie), author of 'Congo, A History', will meet  Miriam Sluis, who published several books on the history of the Dutch Caribean. The second talk brings  together the Curaçao poet Richenel (Muz) Ansano, the Dutch/Iraqi poet Rodaan Al Galidi and writer Petina Gappah from Zimbabwe. There is live music by Rhazul and his Group. All talks are in English.

  • Antillen 2012

    Crusa Lama - Aruba

    With: Caresse Isings, David Van Reybrouck, Dora Lauffer-Mathilda, Elisabeth Pope, Helon Habila, Jacques Thönissen, Jossy Tromp, Petina Gappah, Rodaan Al Galidi, Ryan Maduro, Sharon Rose, Victor Mathilda

    An evening with writers, poets and musicians from Aruba, with four foreign guests from Writers Unlimited. Readings of prose, poetry, storytelling and music in a beautiful surrounding, the garden of the library of Aruba.

  • Antillen 2012

    Crossing the Seas - Sint Maarten

    With: David Van Reybrouck, Gino Olivacce, Helon Habila, Marianne Tefft, Petina Gappah, Rodaan Al Galidi, Stephen Rodney

    The four authors who visit the eiland of St Martin on behalf of Writers Unlimited, will perform together with local authors and muscians Marianne Tefft, Giovanni Olivacce en Stephen "Stretch" Rodney. The morning after this performance, the writers will perform at secondary schools on the island.

  • Winternachten 2010 – Winternachten 2

    Decisive rules

    Whether literature offers solace or confusion, whether it shows the way or disorders, every writer must have been moved in the course of his or her life by a passage, a line, an image or a poem which gave direction to his or her life. Was it a boys' book? A text on a tile? A column? Or rather that highly valued, often quoted passage from world literature? Jonathan Safran Foer, Tash Aw, Ramsey Nasr, Joke van Leeuwen and Petina Gappah read those passages that changed their lives for good, and reveal what happened to them when they read those lines for the first time. The programme starts with a reading from his work by the Iranian author Shahriar Mandanipour.
    In English

  • 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.