Véronique Tadjo was born in Paris in 1955. She grew up in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, her father’s homeland. She studied Literature at the University of Abidjan and completed her doctorate in Afro-American Literature and Culture at the Sorbonne. In 1983 she attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., on a Fulbright Scholarship, then taught at the University of Abidjan until 1993. Following periods in Paris, Lagos, Mexico City and Nairobi, she now lives in London with her husband and two children.
In 1984 Tadjo published her first volume of poetry, ‘Latérite’, which received the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique (ACCT) literary prize. This was followed by three novels, ‘Le Royaume aveugle’ (1991), ‘A vol d’oiseau’ (1992) and ‘Champs de bataille et d’amour’ (1999). Her children’s books, which she partly illustrates herself, have made her known to a wider readership. She has also held writing and illustrating workshops for young people in Mali, Benin, Chad, Haiti and Mauritius.
In summer 1998 Tadjo participated in the ‘Rwanda: écrire par devoir de mémoire’ writing project inspired by Nocky Djedanoum. This broke the silence of African intellectuals on the subject of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which around 30,000 Hutus and almost one million Tutsis were massacred. Ten African authors, a sculptor and a director gathered in Kigali to reflect on the events. They visited sites of the atrocities and memorials and spoke to survivors. Tadjo spontaneously decided to conduct writing workshops there. ‘L’Ombre d’Imana’, published in 2000, is Tadjo’s artistic contribution to overcoming Rwanda’s past. Written in the style of a travel diary, this prose volume combines intensely personal impressions and thoughts with authentic and fictional accounts by killers and victims. One of the basic concepts behind the project was the idea that fiction is the best medium to keep the events alive in people’s memories. “During my first visit to Rwanda I stuck to the facts. When I returned, I read the texts of historians and journalists. After that I wanted to give fiction a chance to make a statement”, the author explains. “That gives you more freedom. I let my imagination run wild and tried to recreate the emotions which had been lost in the academic statements and investigators’ attempts to explain what happened.”
© international literature festival berlin