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Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste - foto Miriam Berkley
Maaza Mengiste - foto Miriam Berkley

(Ethiopia, 1971) debuted in 2010 with the heartbreaking Beneath the Lion's Gaze. This novel was hailed by The Guardian as one of the ten best recent African books. The story is set in the 1970s and begins with the last days of Emperor Haile Selassie. Mengiste continues with the cruel regime of the socialist Derg, who is etimated to have caused 100,000 deaths: "I wanted to show the humanity and the destruction of the people who suffered under this regime." Central themes of Mengiste's fiction and non-fiction are migration, the Ethiopian revolution, and the life of black African immigrants in Europe. She currently works for various orgranisations that support displaced people and human rights. Several Amerian celebrities like Meryl Streep and Alicia Keys worked on her film project Girl Rising, about the situation of girls around the world. Mengiste lives and works in New York City.

(WN 2021)

Archive available for: Maaza Mengiste

  • Ways of Dialogue - Libanon 2016

    Ways of Dialogue Lebanon

    With: Maaza Mengiste, Martijn Knol, Usha K R, Vamba Sherif, Witold Szabłowski

    Van 13 tot en met 20 november reisden vier schrijvers met Writers Unlimited naar Libaonon, voor een tournee van een week naar Beiroet, Tyre, Baaklin, Beqaa en Tripoli. Martijn Knol (Nederland), Witold Szablowski (Polen), Vamba Sherif (Liberia/Nederland) en Usha Kuniga Ramaswamy (India), treden samen met Libanese schrijvers en dichters op. Uit Libanon namen deel de schrijvers Hanan Al Shaykh, Sawsan alAbtah, Rasha alAmir, Abbass Beydoun, Youssef Bazzi, Mark Daou, Maya elHajj, Zena el Khalil, Iman Humaydan, Hussam Itani, Hala Kawtharani, Roseanne Khalaf, Issa Makhlouf , Sahar Mandour, Bilal Orfali , Alawiyah Sobh, Assaad Thebian, Fadi elTofeili, Fawzi Yammine, Hyam Yared, Khaled Ziadeh en Rewa Zeinati.

    Rond het thema 'Ways of Dialogue' droegen de schrijvers voor uit eigen werk en lazen ze fragmenten uit hun literaire traditie. Centrale thema's in de programma's waren de verschillende tradities in deling van macht en besluitvorming. Het was de tweede tournee in een serie in de Arabische wereld. De eerste in de serie vond plaats in mei 2016 in Marokko. Deze tournee was een samenwerkingsproject met PEN Libanon. De optredens waren zowel voor algemeen publiek, als voor studenten van middelbare scholen en universiteiten.

    Dit project van Writers Unlimited wordt mede mogelijk gemaakt door het Nederlandse Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken. PEN Libanon werkt voor dit project samen met o.a. Centre for Arts and Humanities (CAH), American University of Beirut; Centre for Arab and Middle Eastern studies (CAMES) en Aaliya's Bookshop, Jemayzeh, Beirut.

  • Winternachten 2015

    World Storytelling at the ISS

    With: Kees Biekart, Maaza Mengiste, Nii Ayikwei Parkes

    There's nothing better than telling one another stories. Stories from
    near and far by students of the International Institute of Social Studies, by foreign writes, and by the public. The theme of this English-language afternoon of storytelling is "At Home," about feeling at home. The ISS students and the writers have prepared their stories. Do you have a story you'd like to tell. Join us!

    The ISS students come from Africa, Latin America, and Asia. They live in The Hague for a year and a half, and bring many stories from their home countries. Foreign writers like Ethiopia's Maaza Mengiste, a festival guest, will also participate. Kees Biekhart hosts, and there will be music.

    This programme is in English. Do you have a story that fits the bill? Register at the ISS. You have five minutes to tell your story about "At Home."

  • Winternachten 2015 – SATURDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    The Text of My Life: Maaza Mengiste

    In the Filmhuis Studio the festival's guest writers present their favourite literary texts and explain why a particular poem, novel excerpt, or song lyric influenced their life and work. Which memory, what feeling does this text call up for them? A continuous interview programme, in which the audience also talks with the writers. Hosted by Wim Brands and Fidan Ekiz. In English.

  • Winternachten 2015 – FRIDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    Writers Formerly Known as African

    Maaza Mengiste comes from Ethiopia, but emigrated the US as a child and studied in New York. Nii Ayikwei Parkes was born in London to Ghanaian parents. The novels of both authors point to a strong bond with the land of their parents. What does this bond consist of, and how defining is it in their work and identity? Africaphile David von Reybrouck leads the discussion. Toef Jaeger, the biographer of the South Africa-raised Henk van Woerden, starts off the programme with a commentary about reverse emigration—from the Netherlands to Africa. In English.

  • Winternachten 2015 – FRIDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    Home Is Where the Hell Is

    "I deem it the duty of the writer to pick at sore spots, to find a new way, in language the reader has not yet learned how to block out, to describe how complicated the situation is," says well-known Israeli writer David Grossman. He prefers to look at the violent world of grown-ups through the eyes of a child. Jennifer Clement and Maaza Mengiste also write from the children's perspective about growing up in a violence-ravaged environment. Maaza wrote about the Egyptian revolution in De leeuw en de keizer (Beneath the Lion's Gaze); in her poetic Prayer for the Stolen, Clement described how deeply the drug drade interferes with the lives of young girls. Manon Uphoff moderates a conversation with these authors. In English.

  • Indonesië/Maleisië 2011

    The United Nations of Fish

    With: Abeer Soliman, Gündüz Vassaf, Maaza Mengiste, Rodaan Al Galidi

    'The United Nations of Fish, A Fundraising Dinner'. Writers read from their work during dinner, as a fundraising event for the newly opened Rumata Art Space. The evening is organised together with Janet deNeefe, director of the Bali book festival. The four writers on tour for Writers Unlimited will perform together with 'Aisha the little chef', Sese Lawing and local poets. Ticket price is Rp 200,000, to be purchased via

  • Indonesië/Maleisië 2011

    Writing in the Era of the New Media - Makassar

    With: Abeer Soliman, Gündüz Vassaf, Maaza Mengiste, Rodaan Al Galidi

    A programme with Abeer Soliman (Egypt), Tinrity The Naked Traveler (Indonesia) and others. Detailed information will follow soon.

  • Indonesië/Maleisië 2011

    Community Programme: Poet vs Politician- Makassar

    With: Abeer Soliman, Gündüz Vassaf, Maaza Mengiste, Rodaan Al Galidi

    In the opening debate of Poets VS Politicians, eight writers - both international and local -  will read from their work, and will be in a discussion. The local participants are Shinta Febriany, Hamran Sunu, Hendra GST, and Herna Aladjai. A debate in Indonesian with help of translators. How do writers see politicians? 

  • Indonesië/Maleisië 2011

    Opening Makassar International Writers Festival 2011

    With: Abeer Soliman, Gündüz Vassaf, Maaza Mengiste, Rodaan Al Galidi

    The opening night of the festival. With a short movie screening of 'Tribute to Mohammad Salim'. Salim is the translator of the classical maniscript of 'I La Galico'. The distinguished poet Sapardi Djoko Damono will perform this evening. Rodaan al Galidi will read from the classical manuscript, together with three Indonesian poems. Detailed programme will follow soon.
    Tickets: Limited seat, contact

  • Indonesië/Maleisië 2011

    Readings and music - Kuala Lumpur

    With: Abeer Soliman, Gündüz Vassaf, Maaza Mengiste, Rodaan Al Galidi

    An evening with reading and music. Eight writers will read from their work in the original language. English translations will be projected on screen simultaneously. With Gündüz Vassaf (Turkey), Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/USA), Abeer Soliman (Egypt) and Rodaan al Galidi (Netherlands/Iraq),  Dain Said (Malaysia), Kee Thuan Chye (Malaysia), Chua Guet Eng (Malaysia), Uthara Sankar SB (Malaysia) en Dipika Mukherjee (India). Writer Bernice Chauly is the MC. 
    Venue: 'No Black Tie', 17, Jalan Mesui, Kuala Lumpur.

  • Indonesië/Maleisië 2011

    Opening programme - Kuala Lumpur

    With: Abeer Soliman, Gündüz Vassaf, Maaza Mengiste, Rodaan Al Galidi

    The opening programma in The Annexe Gallery in Kuala Lumpur consists of readings by the authors, and a panel discussion. Part one stars at 10.3am, part two at 2.30pm. Admission is free. The four writers invited by Writers Unlimited will participate: Gündüz Vassaf (Turkey), Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/USA), Abeer Soliman (Egypt) and Rodaan al Galidi (Netherlands/Iraq). They will perform together with the Malaysian authors Dain Said, Kee Thuan Chye, Chua Guet Eng, Uthara Sankar SB and the Indian writer Dipika Mukherjee. The discussions are moderated by the Malaysian writers Amir Muhammad and Umpagan Ampikaipakan. Admission is free.

  • Indonesië/Maleisië 2011

    Reading at Taylor's University - Kuala Lumpur

    With: Abeer Soliman, Gündüz Vassaf, Maaza Mengiste, Rodaan Al Galidi

    The first performance in this tour is in Kuala Lumpur in the Experimental Theatre in Taylor's University. The writers will read from their work, and talk with the students and other visitors. The four writers invited by Writers Unlimited - Gündüz Vassaf (Turkey), Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/USA), Abeer Soliman (Egypt) and Rodaan al Galidi (Netherlands/Iraq) - will perform together with the Malaysian authors Dain Said, Kee Thuan Chye, Chua Guet Eng, Uthara Sankar SB and the Indian writer Dipika Mukherjee. All writers will read in their own language, and their texts will simultaneously be projected on screen in English translation. Admission is free.

  • Winternachten 2011

    Winternachten Lecture - Tim Parks

    With: Abdelkader Benali, David Van Reybrouck, Elif Batuman, Epi, Maaza Mengiste, Nelleke Noordervliet, Tim Parks

    'I have a problem with the growing internationalisation of literature,' the British writer Tim Parks recently argued in an interview with Bas Heijne in NRC Handelsblad. On Thursday 20 January 2011 he opened the Winternachten Festival.

    'Writers don't aim at local situations and local issues, because an international audience isn't interested in them. That makes the literature change.' And that's what worries Parks. He fears that literature will deteriorate into an impersonal message for a readership of merely outsiders. 'When you read those kinds of books you don't have the feeling of looking in on someone else, of ending up in another culture. That makes a lot of literature superficial and untruthful.'

    In his Winternachten Lecture Tim Parks elaborated on his disquieting observation. Because many questions remain to be answered. What choice do writers have? Do they have to restrict themselves to the same patterns? Are cultures still so isolated that this is the result? And what about writers who have become estranged and left behind their native soil and culture?
    Abdelkader Benali talked to Parks after his lecture and put his views to David van Reybrouck, Maaza Mengiste and Elif Batuman.
    This was the first evening in the festival, and the official opening. Before the lecture by Tim Parks, writer Nelleke Noordervliet, chairperson of the festival board, gave the opening speech
    In English.

  • Winternachten 2011 – Winternacht 2

    Old Ideals

    Adriaan Van Dis, Maaza Mengiste en Abeer Soliman wrote books on ideals. Van Dis' novel Tikkop relates the history of two white men who as students got involved in the international resistance against Apartheid in South Africa. Mengiste wrote The Lion and the Emperor about the Ethiopian revolution which started in 1974 with the dethroning of emperor Haile Selassie. Soliman is working on a book about three generations in Egypt, the generation of the Nasser revolution, the 1970s, the generation of the exploiters and the present 'lost' generation. Joris Luyendijk talks to the writers about the loss, rebirth and clash between old and new ideals. In English.