The African Writers Association (AWA) consisted mainly of South African writers and performers in exile who were active in West Berlin in the early 1980s. In 1984 the group organized a centenary memorial event on the Berlin Congo Conference of 1884-1885. Thus they were among the earliest Black/PoC groups who addressed the Congo Conference and related colonial continuities. Their literary magazine AWA Finnaba appeared between 1983 and 1988 and contained poetry and short stories, including an early interview with the Initiative of Black People in Berlin, represented by John Amoateng Kantara and the poet May Ayim. The Chief Editor of the magazine was Vusi Mchunu. In 1989, AWA Finnaba was replaced by a successor magazine called IsiVivane.
Philipp Khabo Koepsell (translated by Jeff Bowersox)
Vusi Mchunu on AWA – Finnaba (23 September 2013)
“The context of Black activism,. politics and publishing in the 1980s and the 1990s in Berlin, is linked to the African students unions of various nations, the anti-apartheid movement, and the South Africans, the SWAPO of Namibia solidarity movement, Ethiopian and Eritrean exiles, the Sudanese exiles. There were also African American artists, writers, festival organisers, musicians at the time. They contributed and also published. There were African-run pubs, exhibiting African culture, even large discos run by Africans. There were Ethiopian food shops, where arts culture was important. There was the solidarity movement centre called BAZ in Kreuzberg. We were operating hand in hand with our German friends, activists, progressives, writers and publishers. I remember the encouragement, the support and the platform offered by Third World Books bookstores, run by committed Germans.
I believe that it is initially the activism, solidarity work and the leadership of the African students, that spawned the Black German movement. Not the other way round. We conscieatised, assisted in the formation and gave voice to the Afro-Germans. After all they were our children, who needed mentally arming for the challenge of being Black in Germany.
We introduced them to the impact of “The Black Radical Book Fair” held every two years in London. The founder is the great John la Rose, originally from Trinidad. This was a platform to link up with the African and Arab progressives from France, with thought leaders form the entire Black world. These visitations sharpened the content and method of struggle by Blacks in Berlin. Research on Black arts, culture, heritage and literature production should go in that direction. AWA-FINNABA was continental in that members were from Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Namibia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Black Columbians.“
Source: AWA Finnaba 1:1 (December 1983), Each One Teach One (EOTO) Archive, Berlin. Special thanks to Philipp Khabo Koepsell and EOTO for generously providing access to their resources.
AWA Finnaba by Philipp Khabo Koepsell and Jeff Bowersox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blackcentraleurope.com/who-we-are/.