Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 30, May 2002 


Étonnants Voyageurs: International Book Festival in Bamako

A hundred writers and publishers from Africa and the diaspora ignited the Malian capital of Bamako in a transcontinental celebration of writing, literature, and culture between February 21 and 25, 2002. The festival was organized by Étonnants Voyageurs - Saint Malo (France) through the initiative of the French writer, Michel Le Bris, and Malian author and publisher, Moussa Konaté.

In a journey that began in Saint Malo and ended in Bamako, passing through Kita, Mopti and Koulikoro in the Malian interior, writers, journalists, publishers, book development actors and the general public explored the theme of journeys, in literary and writing seminars, readings in café bars and open air gatherings, and artist workshops.

This year's edition of the festival (the first took place in 2001) featured a cross-generation of writers and artists, particularly marked by the younger generation from the continent and beyond. Among those present were Alioune Blondine Beye (Senegal), Tanella Boni (Côte d'Ivoire), Ken Bugul (Senegal), Boubacar Boris Diop (Senegal), Kossi Efoui (Togo), Koulsy Lamko (Chad), Dominique Mwankumi (Congo DR), and Abdourahman Waberi (Djibouti). The writers shared experiences on the symbols and realities of transition, exile, journeys and the role of the writer in the backdrop of Africa's identity and place today.

The highlight of the seminars was the theme entitled 'L'Afrique n'existe pas' (Africa doesn't exist), whose provocation would be tempered by a journey to the birth of the river Niger at Koulikoro, 60 km from Bamako, where a library project set up by the Filière du Livre au Mali (AFLAM) supported by the French Cooperation is taking books to and promoting reading among rural Malians.

Tanella Boni, the Ivorian writer sums up the festival:

As part of the 'fascinated travellers', I have pondered on this festival, full of frenzy and fury. But the true meetings, I know, did not take place in the open air. I went to Bamako and Koulikoro, I listened and read between the lines. I gathered what could nourish my imagination, and others must have done the same... in the hope that, by chance, all would finally be able to meet. [trans. SA]


Adapted from impressions by Adama Coulibaly and Tanella Boni, in 'Étonnants voyageurs, nouveau rendez-vous littéraire de Bamako' in  [end]  [BPN, no 30, 2002, p 6.]

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