23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Idrissa Keita

Idrissa Keïta was born in 1960 in Bamako, Mali, and has eight brothers and sisters. He is writer, illustrator and musician. After A-levels he received a grant for medical studies in the Soviet Union. Three years later, in 1987, for political reasons, he continued his studies in Frankfurt am Main. Since 1991, Keïta works as a freelance writer and since then moves between the different cultures. In 1998 after a long stay in Germany and France, he returned to his West African homeland. Idrissa Keïta has written many children’s books in French. In Germany, the two poetry volumes for adults “Aus Afrika” (1992) and “Wenn der Wind bläst” (1994) came out. “Djemas Traum vom großen Auftritt” (2001) is his first young people’s book in the German language. In this autobiographical novel, Keïta reflects, in a humorous and lively way, the memories of his childhood and youth in West Africa. The everyday life of growing up Djema who must move with his family from Bougouni to the big city of Bamako because his father lost his job, presents many points of contact with a childhood in Europe: Djema spends his free-time hanging around with his friends and harbours dreams of a future as a famous musician, poet, footballer or wrestler. With this Keïta doesn’t forget to depict the present differences: Djema grows up in a world full of contrasts, between city and countryside, tradition and modern, poverty and wealth. He shares home-made toys with eight brothers and sisters and experiences, for the first time in Bamako, what hunger is. With this highly regarded young people’s novel, Keïta opposes the often one-sided European picture of the African continent – of hunger, desease and dictatorship. His subject concentrates on the African middle-classes who are neither rich or extremely poor, as well as the constantly neglected aspects of African culture: its casualness and wisdom, its belief and the significance of nature. It is the dialogue between the continents of Europe and Africa which motivates Keïta in his literature. Alongside his writing work, Keïta also conveys, as cultural ambassador of the “German World Hunger Aid“, the diversity of West African culture. Beyond “pessimism” and “glossing over”, he conveys a realistic picture of Africa and his youth on his travels, a picture which tries to do justice to the big continent with its many different people and culture. Literature and music are for Keïta equally important. Music belongs to poetry.

“You make music with words” emphasizes Keïta. Together with the international music group “Afro Vibrations”, he made a CD, “Kounafoni”, with Afro-beat and poetry.

In addition to his involvement with the “Summer School of African Literature” Idrissa Keïta is an active member of the security committee of the “Festival on the Niger”, founded in 1852 for interdisciplinary and intercultural understanding. Within the scope of his post as the Minister for Energy and Hydraulics he also applies himself to working together with US research institutes for the sensible usage of the water resources of the African continent.

© international literature festival berlin


Aus Afrika
Unkehl, 1992

Wenn der Wind bläst
Unkehl, 1994

Pourquoi le monde s´est-il divisé?
Bamako, 1998

Bamako, 1999

Djemas Traum vom großen Auftritt. Eine Kindheit in Mali.
Pro juventute
Zürich, 2001
[Ü: Claudia Stein]

Übersetzerin: Claudia Stein