31 October 2016 Leaving the comfort zone – points on the map of Conrad Festival
Let us say it right away, Żanna Słoniowska is the winner of this year’s Conrad Award. The author of The House with the Stained-Glass Window shared her personal experience of being involved in literature when she received her statuette.
For her, writing became an important and risky activity, since it required – first and foremost – leaving her comfort zone.
All Sunday meetings were invitations to setting our own points on the map – the imagined and the real one, literary and geographical.
Grażyna Plebanek and David Van Reybrouck asked a simple question: “Whose Africa?” during a meeting hosted by Maciej Jakubowiak. The meeting was devoted to colonialism and making up for historical and cultural omissions. David Van Reybrouck brought our attention to the fact that the way countries deal with their shameful past can be something to be proud of. To illustrate that, he brought up the example of Germany, a country which had to deal with the dark pages of its history. In his opinion, the time to do the same has come for Belgium and the Congo, as both countries are already mature enough for a discussion, which up to that point had a very hysterical course: “People screamed on both sides, some even tried to defend the colonial adventure... Only now people are starting to discuss post-colonialism”, he said. He also noted the change that took place in literature: “The intellectuals from the Congo ask me how the intellectual tourism works. The West is finally taking an interest in the Congo, its art, literature and what local writers have to say”. Grażyna Plebanek emphasised the fact that the effects of colonial exclusion reach as far as the second generation of immigrants. Children of immigrants, who were actually born and raised in their new country constantly stumble upon situations, where they are asked: “Where did you learn French so well?”