(Liberia, 1973) is a writer and journalist who grew up partly in Kuwait. He fled that country during the Gulf War and arrived in the Netherlands at age 20. His debut novel Land of the Fathers (1999) is partly based on his grandmother's stories and deals with the clash between slaves returning from the US and other Liberians. Zwijgplicht (Oath of Secrecy, 2007), a whodunit about a man investigating a disappearance, describes the way power and its abuse function in Africa. His novel The Black Napoleon (2015) portrays Samori Touré, who founded the Wasulu-empire in western Africa in the 19th century. His journalism, including film reviews, appears in publications such as The New York Times, Trouw and One World. Together with Ebissé Rouw he compiled Zwart (Black, 2018), a collection of stories by Afro-European authors from the Low Countries. Ongekende liefde (Unprecedented Love), in which he tells his life story to his ten-year-old daughter Bendu, was published in 2021.(WN 2021)
Archive available for: Vamba Sherif
The image that we have of our world is purely human: a human-centred picture. It's up to us to give non-humans a voice and a stage. In this program created by Nisrine Mbarki, we give the floor to the non-human elements of our world. It was an existentially poetic evening in which the world was experienced from a different, more complete, perspective.
4:36 - Shishani (Netherlands), song performance I.
10:24 - Vamba Sherif (Netherlands), interview.
24:44 - Shishani, song performance II.
28:40 - Sulaiman Addonia (Belgium), video reading.
35:57 - Annemarie Estor (Belgium), video reading.
43:43 - Amahl Raphael Khouri (Egypt), video reading.
49:58 - Amahl Raphael Khouri / Sulaiman Addonia, interview.
1:12:53 - Vamba Sherif, interview.
1:18:12 - Shishani, song performance II.
The term Tout-monde (whole-world), coined by the Caribbean poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant (1928-2011) advocates the use of language and poetry as a tool of resistance. We can look at the world from the point of view of other people, animals, plants and even objects by identifying with them. In the Netherlands, writer Eva Meijer calls on philosophers, writers and artists to get to work on this.
We discussed this theme with writer and journalist Vamba Sherif who always explores the history of his family in North and West Africa, irrevocably linked to the African earth. In his novel Het land van de vaders (The land of the Fathers) he tells about his native country Liberia, where the religion of nature was adhered to by praying to trees, rocks and rivers.
We asked three guests to give a voice to beloved non-humans who, in their view, should have one. These include the Eritrean-Ethiopian author Sulaiman Addonia; the Belgian writer and poet Annemarie Estor and the transgender Jordanian playwright living and working in Berlin and Cairo, Amahl Raphael Khouri.
In their works the search for an individual, free voice plays an important role. They are especially adept at taking on alternative voices that lack the usual perspectives on the world and are therefore of great added value.
The authors' readings of their stories were filmed on location, in their own habitat by respectively Ahmed El Saaty (Khouri), Shalan Alhamwy (Addonia) en Nils van der Linden (Estor). Afterwards, writer and journalist Chris Keulemans lead a live conversation with Addonia and Khouri to reflect on what issues the assignment raised.
Shishani brings worlds together with an earthly and powerful voice and was therefore the singer-songwriter par excellence to engage us with the non-human.
Read here the contributions written for this programme on request of the Winternachten international literature festival The Hague:
(Find the Dutch-language versions here/Lees hier de Nederlandstalige versies)
Learn more here:
Read and watch on here:
The image we have of our world is purely human, making it human-centric. It's up to us to offer non-humans a voice and a stage. This program created by Nisrine Mbarki gave the floor to the non-human elements of our world. It was an existentially poetic evening to experience the world from a different, more holistic, perspective.
The term Tout-monde (whole world), coined by the Caribbean poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant (1928-2011), advocates the use of language and poetry as a tool of resistance. We can see the world from the point of view of other people, animals, plants and even objects by identifying with them. In the Netherlands, writer Eva Meijer calls on philosophers, writers and artists to get to work on this.
We discussed this theme with writer and journalist Vamba Sherif, who is continually seeking the history of his family in North and West Africa, irrevocably linked to the African earth. In his novel Het land van de vaders (The Land of the Fathers) he tells about his native country of Liberia, where since time immemorial a religion of nature gave worship to trees, rocks and rivers.
We asked three authors to give a voice to beloved non-humans. These were the Eritrean-Ethiopian author Sulaiman Addonia; the Belgian essayist and poet Annemarie Estor; and the Jordanian transgender playwright living and working in Berlin and Cairo, Amahl Raphael Khouri. In their works, the search for an individual, free voice plays an important role. All three are especially adept at taking on alternative voices lacking in the usual perspectives on the world, and therefore of great value.
The authors read their resulting stories on locaion, in their own habitat, and were filmed by Ahmed El Saaty (Khouri), Shalan Alhamwy (Addonia) en Nils van der Linden (Estor). Afterwards, writer and journalist Chris Keulemans led a live conversation with Addonia and Khouri to reflect on what thoughts the assignment raised.
With an earthy and powerful voice, Shishani brought disparate worlds together and was thereby the ideal singer-songwriter to engage us with the non-human.
Read the pieces commissioned for this program by the Winternachten International Literature Festival The Hague here:
(Find the Dutch-language versions here/Lees hier de Nederlandstalige versies)
A talk show about the most wonderful differences in culture, habits, language and literature, addressing the theme of "What is normal". With stories from the neighbourhood as well as discussions and presentations by writer Cynthia McLeod (Suriname), children's books writer and illustrator Mylo Freeman and poet Walter Palm.
In this workshop you learn to turn a true-life anecdote or a strong opinion into a story. Actress Annemarie de Bruijn and writer Vamba Sherif get you ready within two hours to present your story to the public at the Theater en Filmhuis Dakota café. The workshop is from noon to 14h. At 15h, the public is welcome to attend the presentations, which will alternate with songs by Lien Cornellissen. You can enjoy snacks and drinks along with the entertainment.
This show by and featuring Bright Richards is a funny and confronting musical play (with live music) about an actor who must flee his home country, where he was famous and beloved. In the Netherlands, he goes in search of integration and a new audience.
The Bright Side of Life, a co-production of Theatre Utrecht and New Dutch Connections, shows a person in the process of leaving behind the old world an integrating in a new one. Ultimately, it turns out that home is not where you come from, but where things are good for you.
Bright was once a famous actor in Liberia, who fled that country 20 years ago due to the civil war. Theatre helped him build up a new existence in the Netherlands. He went to theatre school in Arnhem, created shows for Ro Theater, and has been touring the play As I Left My Father's House through the whole country since 2009. The arrival of more than 60,000 refugees in the Netherlands and the associated challenges for these people as well as for Dutch society inspired him to create this new show.
Following the performance, writer Vamba Sherif speaks with Bright O. Richards.
Concept, text and play: Bright O. Richards
Directed by: Ko van den Bosch
Music from and by: Oleg Fateev
Also with: MC Innocent Ekhator and some ten young refugees
With: Vamba Sherif
Tijdens het Winternachten Verhalen festival gaan we vanuit Theater en Filmhuis Dakota samen met schrijvers en dichters op zoek naar verhalen van mensen uit de wijk. In deze theesessie ontmoet u de Liberiaans-Nederlandse schrijver Vamba Sherif.Gewapend met thee, pennen en een luisterend oor verzamelt hij uw verhalen rond de vraag 'Wat is nog normaal'. De toegang is gratis, reserveren is aanbevolen. De koffie en thee staan klaar. We verzamelen bij Theater Dakota, en lopen dan naar de overkant, naar ANA, de Arabische en Noord Afrikaanse Academie. Daar vindt de theesessie plaats.
Vamba Sherif (Liberia, 1973), deels opgegroeid in Koeweit, is schrijver en journalist. Hij ontvluchtte het land wegens de Golfoorlog en kwam als twintigjarige in Nederland terecht. Zijn debuutroman Het land van de vaders (1999) is deels gebaseerd op de verhalen van zijn grootmoeder en gaat over de clash tussen uit de VS teruggekeerde slaven en andere Liberianen. Zwijgplicht (2007), een detective over een man die een verdwijning onderzoekt, beschrijft hoe macht en machtsmisbruik werken in Afrika. Daarna verscheen De Getuige, een scherp portret van migratieland Nederland. Zijn roman De Zwarte Napoleon (2015) portretteert Samori Touré, die in de 19e eeuw het Wasulu-rijk stichtte in westelijk Afrika. Journalistiek werk, waaronder filmrecensies, is gepubliceerd in onder meer The New York Times, Trouw en One World. Met Ebissé Rouw stelde hij de verhalenbundel Zwart (2018) samen met Afro-Europese literatuur uit de Lage Landen.
ANA Academie, gevestigd in Escamp Den Haag, staat voor Arabische en Noord-Afrikaanse Academie en is toegankelijk voor alle bevolkingsgroepen van Den Haag met het doel verbinding te zoeken tussen bewoners met een Arabische of andere achtergrond en autochtone Nederlanders. De naam ANA is tevens een verwijzing naar het Arabische woord "ana" dat in het Nederlands "ik" betekent en aangeeft dat deelnemers aan zichzelf kunnen werken om zich op cultureel en maatschappelijk vlak te ontplooien. ANA Academie biedt tal van mogelijkheden voor het ontwikkelen van talenten en het verbreden van hobby's op het gebied van kunst en cultuur voor alle leeftijden in de locatie Theater Dakota / Zuid57. ANA Academie maakt onderdeel uit van Stichting Kefeya.
Het wijkgesprek is een initiatief van Writers Unlimited en Theater en Filmhuis Dakota ter gelegenheid van het 25e Winternachten internationaal literatuurfestival Den Haag (15-19 januari). In Theater en FIlmhuis Dakota vindt zaterdag 18 en zondag 19 januari het gratis toegankelijke Dakota's Winternachten Verhalenfestival plaats met op zaterdag ontmoetingen met schrijvers Cynthia Mc Leod, Walter Palm en Vamba Sherif en de muziektheatervoorstelling The Bright Side of Life, en op zondag een workshop en open podium verhalen vertellen, een kinderprogramma met jeugdboekenschrijver en -illustrator Mylo Freeman en een talkshow.
With: Adriaan van Dis, Angelina Enny, Antjie Krog, Cynthia Mc Leod, Ellen Deckwitz, Goenawan Mohamad, Hassnae Bouazza, Jolyn Phillips, Karin Amatmoekrim, Nelleke Noordervliet, Petina Gappah, Reggie Baay, Rosabelle Illes, Shailesh Bahoran, Sigrid Kaag, Simon(e) van Saarloos, Ton van de Langkruis, Vamba Sherif
A fantastic line-up of fifteen Dutch and international authors provided 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). The festival was opened by Sigrid Kaag, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.
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 28 wonderful pieces of writing edited by Toef Jaeger and published by Jurgen Maas. It is available 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 presented (inter)national writers that have developed a special bond with our festival and its audience. These included: Goenawan Mohamad (Indonesia) and Nelleke Noordervliet - who both performed at the first Winternacht in 1995 -, Adriaan van Dis, Antjie Krog (South Africa), Reggie Baay, Manon Uphoff, Vamba Sherif and Cynthia McLeod (Suriname). Tip: be sure to look up these writers in our online video and sound 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: Angelina Enny (Indonesia), Rosabelle Illes (Aruba), Jolyn Phillips (South Africa) and, from the Netherlands, Karin Amatmoekrim, Simon(e) van Saarloos and Ellen Deckwitz. We awaited their appearances and recitations with bated breath.
Theatre maker, choreographer and hiphop innovator Shailesh Bahoran performed parts of his dance solo Heritage that was inspired by his Hindostani background; a short video of The Theatre of Wrong Decisions was shown and the Hesce Mourits Quartet of the Royal Conservatory The Hague also performed.
The Opening Night was hosted by Hassnae Bouazza.
The performance of Manon Uphoff, announced for this programme, has been canceled due to illness.
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.
To what extent has African literature been able to wrest itself free of linguistic colonization? And what about other languages? Can the predominance of English still be stopped, or is it a lost cause? Liberian-Dutch writer and poet Vamba Sherif discusses the issue with American-Kenyan writer, poet, university lecturer in English and activist Mukoma Wa Ngũgĩ and with Ellah Wakatama, Editor-at-Large of Scottish publishing firm Cannongate Books. She is also a senior Research Fellow at Manchester University and Chair of the Caine Prize for African Writing.
Tip: Mukoma Wa Ngũgĩ also appears at the Storytelling Symposium "Decolonising the Mind: What Happened to You?" on Thursday, 16 January, at the International Institute of Social Studies.
In this film programme with moderator Gerlinda Heywegen writer Vamba Sherif talks about the work of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène, who is seen as a key figure in post-colonial African cinema.
Sherif about Sembène: "His films were a way not only to decolonise the African spirit but also to point out and criticize the relationship between Africa and the West with a keen eye. The excerpts are from the documentary made by Kenyan literary and social activist Ngūgi wa Thiong'o, whose work plays a central role in this edition of Winternachten, about Sèmbene's life. Furthermore, clips from films such as Abouna (2002) by the Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun and Med Hondo's Soleil Ō will be shown.
This programme is followed by the screening of the film choice of Sherif, Heremakono by Abderrahmane Sissako.
"Thinking of Holland / I see broad rivers / winding slowly through endless lowlands" is perhaps the best-known Dutch opening verse. In Memory of Holland written in 1936, Hendrik Marsman describes the lanscape and the struggle against water. Seven young authors went fast forward to today, allowing the poem to inspire their future vision of the Netherlands. Poets Asha Karami and Derek Otte, singer-songwriters Lounar and Raj Mohan, performer and visual artist Roberta Petzoldt, and writers Simone van Saarloos and Vamba Sherif presented their new versions. Programmer and host Francis Broekhuijsen opened the programme by reading Marsmans classic poem.
Van 13 tot en met 20 november reisden vier schrijvers met Writers Unlimited naar Libaonon, voor een tournee van een week naar Beiroet, Tyre, Baaklin, Beqaa en Tripoli. Martijn Knol (Nederland), Witold Szablowski (Polen), Vamba Sherif (Liberia/Nederland) en Usha Kuniga Ramaswamy (India), treden samen met Libanese schrijvers en dichters op. Uit Libanon namen deel de schrijvers Hanan Al Shaykh, Sawsan alAbtah, Rasha alAmir, Abbass Beydoun, Youssef Bazzi, Mark Daou, Maya elHajj, Zena el Khalil, Iman Humaydan, Hussam Itani, Hala Kawtharani, Roseanne Khalaf, Issa Makhlouf , Sahar Mandour, Bilal Orfali , Alawiyah Sobh, Assaad Thebian, Fadi elTofeili, Fawzi Yammine, Hyam Yared, Khaled Ziadeh en Rewa Zeinati.
Rond het thema 'Ways of Dialogue' droegen de schrijvers voor uit eigen werk en lazen ze fragmenten uit hun literaire traditie. Centrale thema's in de programma's waren de verschillende tradities in deling van macht en besluitvorming. Het was de tweede tournee in een serie in de Arabische wereld. De eerste in de serie vond plaats in mei 2016 in Marokko. Deze tournee was een samenwerkingsproject met PEN Libanon. De optredens waren zowel voor algemeen publiek, als voor studenten van middelbare scholen en universiteiten.
Dit project van Writers Unlimited wordt mede mogelijk gemaakt door het Nederlandse Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken. PEN Libanon werkt voor dit project samen met o.a. Centre for Arts and Humanities (CAH), American University of Beirut; Centre for Arab and Middle Eastern studies (CAMES) en Aaliya's Bookshop, Jemayzeh, Beirut.
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.
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 writerstwo of them from countries with long histories of multiculturalismprovide ideas for dos and don'ts. No laws, just manners. The public will discuss these ideas. Do we adopt them or not? In Dutch.
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!
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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).