MAHOGANY - The value of Identity

Léonora Miano
Léonora Miano is a Cameroonian writer settled in Paris where she is now on board of the Association Mahogany, among her novels we remember: Contours du jour qui vient ,Les aubes écarlates, Tels des astres éteints and the last L'intérieur de la nuit, which has been selected to be within the school programms during 2010/2011. She has been awarded among others of the Prix Luis Guilloux and the Grinzane Cavour award. Her work has been translated also in Italy and it happen to be that we have the same Italian Publisher, Epoché.
Here a short interview where Léonora Miano tell us about the Association Mahogany born in 2010 in Paris of which she is the President. The Association is one of the most interesting cultural "spaces" we have seen in the last years in Europe.
VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA- Léonora, can you tell us about the Project Mahoany where and how does t start?
LEONORA MIANO - Mahogany is a non- profit afrodiasporic organization working in the fields of culture and education. It starts in 2010 in Paris. Being a writer my work is to give a name to things and to reveal what has been forgotten and what has been ignored or denied. That's why I started Mahogany. My writing is about the interiority of the sub-Saharan and afro descendant people. My work focuses on the injury of History, the identity issue, memory, the complicated relationships within Sub-saharans and afro descendants, the representation of the afro-european population . This work allows me to travel and meet all sort of different people and I’m so much impressed about the  lackness of knowledge the world seems to have about the people which are part of my work , for example the afro- europeans, and this lackness of knowledge reinforces the marginalization  of a people  whose belonging to the European space is still a challenge.  If I’m interested in  valorizing the sub-saharan and afro-descendant word, is to offer it  to the world who ignores it,  and to contribute in creating a future where every sensibility will be taken in the right consideration for its own being unique.
VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA  – Who is on the board of the association?
LEONORA MIANO – With me there is Frieda Ekotto, professor of Afroamerican and African studies  at University of Michigan and Nathalie Etoke, professor of Afrodiasporic studies at Connecticut College.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - Among the aims of Mahogany there is the intent to unite and bring together all the sub-saharian and afro descendant experiences. Why do you think is urgent today to implement the dialogue among the different experiences of the African Diaspora ?
LEONORA MIANO - We never spoke of unity. This would be too ambitious. Yet, we value both subsaharan and afro-descendent experiences because they are deeply linked and need to aknowledge what they have in common as well as what makes them different. We hope to work for a better understanding between the two.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - Europe is currently living a moment of instability also related to the multicultural context, what contribution Mahogany intends to give to this situation and what changes do you wish to see?
LEONORA MIANO Instability in Europe has to do with something else, from my point of view. Multiculturalism is just a pretext. We hope to bring a better knowledge, another look on people from African descent in Europe and elsewhere.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - As a  writer and intellectual how do you see the future of African countries related to their capacity of expressing their own identity in a post colonial context?
LEONORA MIANO - As a writer and an artist, I have absolutely no clue as to what the future holds for Africa. The problem there is not solely one of identity. My intention with Mahogany is to help people value their history and  understand the ways in which the past has shaped the present.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - What is the Prix Mahogany? And with which criteria did you choose the books?
LEONORA MIANO - We award books written by people from sub-saharan Africa and people of African descent. We have two categories: novel and essay.

The Literary Prize Mahogany has been created in 2011 to recognise the sub saharan and afrodescendant authors. Two the categories: Novel and Essay and the winner will be named in 2012. The books which can partecipate must be written or translated into French. At the end of the deliberation, the books that partecipated will be enriching the Salle de Lecture Afrosphères à Douala, Cameroun. 

Mahogany March is a cultural event with lectures, film, encounters with writers and many of the events will be hosted by Museum Dapper, an artistical and cultural place  for Africa, the Caribbean and the Diaspora.  On the agenda the following events:
11 March 2012 - Meeting with Rokhaya Diallo author of Racisme, mode d'emploi. Moderator Léonora Miano.
14 March 2012- Scéne Slam with Silex and On a slame sur la lune. Reading with Léonora Miano.
16 March 2012 - Conference Femmes créatrices dans le cinema d'Ousmane Sembene with Frieda Ekotto.
17 March 2012 - Conference Black in Blue: le passage du milieu with Nathalie Etoke.
24 March 20120 - Conference Rastafari: la couleur de Dieu with Maboula Soumahoro. 

Léonora says that Everybody can come to our events, if they're interested in afrodiasporic matters. From january to june, we invite writres for talks with their readers.
Mahogany can be followed on Facebook here.  


Calling for Writers - Writing Across Borders - 8 week Intercultural Writing Workshop

Writing Across Borders is a writing workshop open to writers of all levels, migrants and non, even beginners who want to be part of an open space where to get confidence with the writing subject and share an experience of creativity.
Valentina Acava Mmaka is a prolific published author in Italy. She is has published  children's and teens books  focusing on multicultural themes, she writes dramas and novels which enlight on the experience of migration, identity, crossing and living between cultures. As a seasoned instructor, Valentina facilitates workshops that offer inspiration in a warm supportive environment.
Actress Imane Khalil Combes
She has been running writing workshops for children and adults in Italy and Kenya, working also with migrant's partecipants among whihc also refugees using writing as a tool to rise consciousness on the migration experience. . Her dramas have been staged in Italy, France, Congo, Kenya. She is supporting a project of building multicultural sustainable libraries where they are needed. To know more about Valentina and her books visit www.valentinammaka.net.

This is a short interview i gave  introducing my Intercultural Writing Workshop in Italy last year.

QUESTION - Why an Intercultural Writing Workshop and why Writing Across Borders?
ANSWER- We all live in a world where people move and circulate, every day we confront each other with people of different cultures and deal with different issues related to identity. It doesn’t matter if we are travelling or not, if we migrate somewhere , we all have to deal with the migration experience. What I mean to say is that is not just a closed experiences that only some people do, everyone deal with such experience in the daily life. And this leads us to the issue of identity, of what a multicultural society is, of which  culture should be considered the leading one , language, culture, national boundaries, roots, etc…  

QUESTION - Who’s is the target of this workshop?
ANSWER – Writers of all levels but also readers who have tried once to write something or who never tried but always felt that they could write something. Writing is such a private activity but with a very huge public impact, not everyone feel confident with this public part, writing need to be recognized, to be shared and to be liked or not liked as well. I’m very much interested in building a space where people confront each other exploring through writing their different worlds and visions and how to recognize the multiple within us and around us. Writing is a matter of taking position, words are never neutral, and our vision should not suffocate the imaginary that can lead us to new possible visions on life and on the world. Writing helps us to elaborate our perceptions of the reality in something that allow us to make that same reality more understandable to us and more complete.

QUESTION - You’ve worked with refugees and migrant s in Italy and Kenya as well, how does it work a workshop based on writing in particular situations like the ones refugees have to face?
ANSWER - I was asked this question several times, and at first a writing workshop starts with the idea of breaking the first barrier in such a difficult situation: communication. People who lives in a camp or in a permanent base of first aid  barely can communicate with others, they often speak different languages and the feelings about the experience they are living are sometimes very strangely related to the notion of being “friendly”. There’s a sense of conservation that makes communication difficult. The first thing they need is to express themselves, is to let their feelings come out and let other’s  know what they have been passing through. The first time I organized such a workshop was a real challenge, how would I have made it to reunite people of different countries to write about their own experience? How would I have translated to them what other writers have wrote about similar experiences in the past and in the present? It was a great revelation for me. There I saw how writing can be the bridge to connect people and the tool to elaborate a common imaginary based on the idea that differencies makes us rich and gives space to the multiple that lives within us. Working with people who live extreme migration experiences gives you the right perspective on how we all related to them. Even the language wasn’t a huge problem and sometimes  they mixed their own language and to express things they believed were not translatable into Italian. So the workshop turned to be very much intercultural, cultures were meeting on the same platform and languages were interacting creating new ways of describing feelings, ideas, emotions.


To recieve details, program and to sign up send a mail to valentinammaka(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
You will be send a form where you will sign up your partecpation and answer to a short  questionaire