Tanella Boni was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in 1954. She studied Philosophy in French Toulouse and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where she received a doctorate in 1987. For twenty five years she has worked as Philosophy Professor at the University of Cocody in Abidjan, and since 1984 has published poetry, novels (among them »Une vie de crabe«, 1990, and »Les Baigneurs du Lac Rose«, 1995), as well as three children’s books. In addition to philosophical articles, she regularly writes art and literary reviews for various magazines, among them »Africultures« and »Mots pluriels«. From 1991 to 1997 Boni was President of the Association of Writers of the Ivory Coast. Since her poetry debut (»Labyrinthe«) in 1984 she has – just like Véronique Tadjo – become the embodiment of a new generation of writers whose female voices contrast with the male dominance of Ivory Coast literature.
In »Labyrinthe« and her second volume of poetry, »Grains de sable« (1993), Tanella Boni focuses on the search for one’s own path as poet. She chooses the labyrinth as an image for these painful initiation processes which are rife with solitude, sadness and doubt. Starting from the innermost point, the authorial »I« embarks on a search, gets lost along this or that dead-end street, and finally finds a way out. With commanding metaphors, Tanella Boni handles themes such as the relationship between the sexes in Africa, the burden of tradition, social grievances, as well as the intense desire for freedom and the free word. Succinct speech rhythms are characterised by word play and strengthening repetitions. As both poet and co-organiser of Abidjan’s international poetry festival, Boni searches for ways to connect modern Francophone verse with the theatrical oral recitation forms of traditional poetry. In her latest volume of poetry, »Gorée île baobab« (2004), she tells the story of the island of Gorée, formerly the last stop on the slave trade before the crossing to North and South America, and today a place of remembrance for the African diaspora. In doing so, she remembers the horror of Africa’s early history. »Today, in an Africa eroded by war and all kinds of disease, it is essential that literary genres like poetry can play an important role.« Boni was awarded the Prix Ahmadou Kourouma for her novel »Matins de couvre-feu« (2005). In the same yeat she received the German LiBeratur Prize.The writer lives in Abidjan.
© international literature festival berlin