Award ceremony in Frankfurt: Dangarembga receives Peace Prize

Status: 10/24/2021 1:00 p.m.

The author and filmmaker Dangarembga has been honored with the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. A city councilor interrupted the mayor’s speech to denounce racism at the book fair.

The Zimbabwean author and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga has received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. The 62-year-old managed to “bring a society so close to us that we cannot fully understand it, but we can relate it to ourselves, to ourselves and our own inadequacies,” said the head of the German Book Trade Association , Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt. The jury recognized Dangarembga as “a widely audible voice of Africa in contemporary literature”. In her artistic work she combines a unique storytelling with a universal view.

The laudation for Dangarembga was given by the Kenyan Germanist and sociologist Auma Obama, half-sister of the former US President Barack Obama. “You are not ordinary, an ordinary life was not an option for you,” she said of her friend. Dangarembga has become a voice for the voiceless “against all odds”. “You are one of the most successful and important voices on the African continent and hopefully soon with the award worldwide.”

“We have to develop new thoughts”

Dangarembga published her acclaimed debut novel “Nervous Conditions” in 1988 as the first part of an autobiographical trilogy. Using the example of an adolescent woman, the three books describe the struggle for the right to a decent life and female self-determination in Zimbabwe. From 1989 to 1996 Dangarembga studied film directing in Berlin and later returned to Zimbabwe with her German husband. In her films she addresses problems that arise from the clash of tradition and modernity.

In her acceptance speech she campaigned for a fundamental change in thinking and a “new education” to solve the climate crisis and social problems. “The knowledge of the past years and centuries is not enough. They did not save us,” she said. She is convinced that “we all urgently need new information on this planet today,” said Dangarembga. “We have to develop new thoughts,” she demanded, “in order to bring about a paradigm shift”. The peace prize is endowed with 25,000 euros.

Green city councilor interrupts Feldmann

At the beginning of the ceremony, the debate about the presence of right-wing publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair was surprisingly the focus, after the book fair organizers had referred to freedom of expression after authors had rejected it.

Mayor Peter Feldmann said in his speech that it was hard to read “that women authors are afraid to go to Frankfurt because they could meet right-wing publishers and authors here”. The Frankfurt city councilor Mirrianne Mahn spontaneously took the floor for a short address during the speech. “We are talking about the discourse and we are talking about freedom of expression,” said the city’s representative for diversity development. Right-wing extremists and inhuman ideologies are not an opinion – and should not be covered by freedom of expression.

“The paradox is that here in Paulskirche, the cradle of democracy, we give a black woman the peace prize, but black women were not welcome at this book fair,” said the Green politician. “And I’m saying very clearly that they weren’t welcome because they weren’t made to feel safe. That’s not freedom of expression.”

If it is tolerated that right-wing extremists get a platform, “then we will take an active part in the next Hanau,” said Mahn. The discourse on freedom of expression is not the actual discourse. “People like me cannot sit here and listen to the fact that the book fair is being praised for a discourse that is existential for others.

Green city councilor Mirrianne Mahn: “Inhuman ideologies are not freedom of expression”

Tagesschau24 12:00 p.m., October 24th, 2021

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