The fourth event in the Black History Month in Berlin series began with a lecture by one of Africa’s most celebrated writers in modern times – Zimbabwean born Shimmer Chinodya, which took place at the African Studies department of Humboldt University. Following an impressive presentation of Mr. Chinodya’s biography, the audience had the chance to listen to the author read excerpts from his novels.
Mr. Chinodya, Professor in creative writing and African Literature in the United States, was awarded the Commonwealth Writers‘ Prize, Region Africa for his novel “A Harvest of Thorns”, which deals with the Zimbabwean war of liberation in the 1970s. He followed this success by receiving the Noma Award, Africa’s most prestigious literature award, for his latest novel “Strife”, which focuses on the psychology of family relations, insanity, death, and religious delusion. In previous novels such as “Can We Talk” (a collection of short stories) and “Chairman of Fools”, Chinodya tackles the fragility of relationships between the sexes and the instability of the alleged strong man.
With his deep voice, and given the fascinating themes of his novels, the author managed to hold the audience’s attention and capture their imagination through a reading of short stories from “Can We Talk”. Taking this collection of short stories as an example and underlining that he is not a political writer, Chinodya pointed out that he uses language and word plays to show how people in Africa went through the changes of the last decades. Chinodya continued by reading his latest novel “Strife” and gave insights into the microcosms of life in Zimbabwe, again fascinating an audience that included 15 students from Harari, Zimbabwe.
Shimmer Chinodya explained that his fiction “seeks to explore and extend the borders of reality, to question and tease matters of identity, class and culture, the past and the present; to explore the human condition in the most interesting and sensitive way possible. “
After the reading, the audience had the chance to ask Mr. Chinodya questions. This was followed by some closing remarks by Mark Donfried, founder and Director of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, and by a reception giving all the participants the opportunity to share their views on Shimmer Chinodya’s contribution with each other.
The Bernard Allison Band
A little under two hours later, and on the other side of Berlin’s famous Tiergarten, an expectant crowd was waiting patiently in Berlin’s famous music venue, Quasimodo. There was an air of excitement as the public awaited the next component of the Black History Month in Berlin program – a performance by the Bernard Allison Band. Son of the well known Blues guitarist Luther Allison, Bernard fronts a six-piece group including Jose Jason Wilber (bass), Bruce McCabe (keyboard), Jose James (saxophone and percussion), Erik Ballard (drums), and Michael Goldschmitt (backing guitar). Quasimodo, a location closely connected to the history of Black History Month in Berlin, provided the perfect setting for an evening of entertainment and enjoyment.
The band delivered a vintage performance that put smiles on faces and got shoes tapping across the floor. They mixed energetic rhythms with moments when they turned the volume right down, playing almost acoustically, while the crowd responded by falling completely silent – a bizarre but brilliant technique. The band played long into the night, and contributed yet more memories to the Black History Month program.