22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Nasrin Siege

Portrait Nasrin Siege
© Hartwig Klappert

Nasrin Siegewas born in Iran in 1950 and came to Germany when she was nine years old.  She grew up in Hamburg and Flensburg, studied Psychology and Pedagogics in Kiel and worked as a psychotherapist in a hospital for drug addicts in Friedrichdorf, Taunus. Since 1983 Nasrin Siege has lived for extensive periods of time in Africa with her husband, a German development worker. She works as a freelance writer, is engaged in traditional healing methods, collects fairly tales and is interested in African art. She is involved in several projects with street children in Tanzania, is a counseller in the children’s remand prison of Dar-Es-Salaam, and founded with friends the organization “Hilfe für Afrika e.V.”

Nasrin Siege’s texts deal with prejudices towards other cultures.  They dismantle clichés and look into the circumstances of children in diverse cultures. “As a child, I was often angry about the representation of other cultures in young people’s books either as “exotic”, as scenery for the white heroes, or as object of ridicule. I missed books for children in which there were girls like me with problems similar to mine.”  Her first children’s book ‘Sombo, das Mädchen vom Fluss’ (Engl: Sombo, The Girl from the River) was published in 1990.  With great empathy it tells the story of a girl growing up in Zambia.  The author describes farming, fishing and hunting of the Luvale people in a stirring and colourful manner.  She tells of Sombo’s initiation in the Mukanda, the girls’ bush school, where she is prepared for her life as a woman, as well as of her dream of achieving more than the village women. The book about Sombo is frequently used in classes and was awarded the Children’s Literature Award of the Berlin Senate’s Commissioner for Foreigners, alongside the novel ‘Wie der Fluss in meinem Dorf’ (1994, Engl: Like the River in my Village). Nasrin Siege’s books very often reflect her own life, as in her novel ‘Shirin’ (1996). Eleven year old Shirin moves from Iran to Germany with her parents in 1960.  While her difficulties finding friends become more and more irrelevant, she at the same time becomes estranged from her parents.

Nasrin Siege’s role as a mediator between cultures is evident in her fairy tales.  In ‘Kalulu und andere afrikanische Märchen’ (1993, Engl: Kalulu and Other African Fairy Tales) she follows the track of the rabbit Kalulu.  The tales tell of fighting and submission, love and hatred; they surprise by sudden turns, African wisdom and European influences. Siege’s latest young people’s book ‘Hyänen im hohen Gras. Spuren in der Serengeti’ (Engl: Hyaenas in the Grass. Tracks in the Serengeti) appeared this August.  Since 2005, she has lived in Madagascar. Among other things, she helps teenagers to realize their own book projects.

© international literature festival berlin