ICORN guest writers and coordinators from the twelve Norwegian cities of refuge gathered at green and flowering Lillehammer during the Norwegian Festival of Literature during the last days of May.
The theme of the festival was Responsibility. What responsibilities does a writer have? What responsibilities do we all have?
We gathered at the Nansen Academy and Peace Center for most of our discussions, an appropriate gathering place named in the memory of Fridtjof Nansen who was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
To have a say
The ICORN seminary, held within the festival, was opened by Lillehammer Mayor, the State Secretary of Culture and Head of the Board of the Norwegian PEN, William Nygaard. Our theme of discussion for the ICORN meetings was: To have a say. How can the guest writers' voices be heard – in Norway – in their home countries – in the world?
A panel debate set the scene with Carl Morten Iversen, General Secretary of Norwegian PEN, Kjersti Stenseng, State Secretary of Culture, Ingvild Herzog, Nowegian Writers’ Centre, Anders Heger, former Head of the Board of Norwegian PEN, Elisabeth Dyvik, Programme Director ICORN, Soudabeh Alishahi, former guest writer and Øivind Pedersen, Lillehammer City of Refuge.
Soudabeh Alishahi asked a question, which was repeated several times during our days together: Do the cities of refuge just protect and save the writers as persons? Or do the cities save the writers’ writing? We are quite able to give the persons a new life in our country, but do we manage to save the writers from losing their voice?
Norwegian Minister of Culture, Hadia Tajik, challenged the Norwegian ICORN Network to come up with specific projects and present them to the Department of Culture and apply for economical support.
We followed up with a Café dialog meeting with writers and coordinators mixed in groups, discussing projects and other ways to make the writers’ voices heard. It was a fast and brain storming event, and many ideas and thoughts were expressed. Ideas, which may be the start of future projects.
Keeping the voices heard - at the Norwegian Festival of Literature
The Norwegian Minister of Culture, Hadia Tajik joined the festival and the ICORN guest writers had a pleasant meeting with her at a garden party. After hand shakes, pictures and conversations we are sure she is now even more aware of the ICORN network and the diverse group of guest writers.
Many of the current and former ICORN guest writers in Norway took part in events in the literature festival programme.
Chenjerai Hove (Stavanger/Zimbabwe), Soudabeh Alishahi (Oslo/Iran) and Kareem Amer (Bergen/Egypt) were interviewed on stage by author Hilde Hagerup in an event where the Norwegian–English anthology Under the same sky was relaunched.
Philo Ikonya (Oslo/Kenya), Andrei Nekrasov (Haugesund/Russia) and Burmese Thida talked about their exile stories with Anders Heger from Norwegian PEN.
Late at night there was an African book bar in a café with Philo Ikonya, Chenjerai Hove and award-winning Somalian author Nuruddin Farah.
A lovely morning session was held in a park with Soudabeh Alishahi, Gilles Dossoi-Gounin (Molde/Benin) and Jahangir Alam Akash (Tromsø/Bangladesh) with readings and talks led by author Hilde Hagerup.
Two of the guest writers in Norway are cartoonists - Arifur Rahman (Drøbak/Bangladesh) and Abdullahi Muhiaddin (Skien/Somalia). They held an exhibition at the library and a discussion with Norwegian cartoonist Siri Dokken about the cartoonist's role and freedom of expression.
At the festival, the guest writers had their say and met a large Norwegian and international audience. Now the cities of refuge and the writers will have to continue the good cooperation on keeping the writers' voices heard in projects and events in the time coming.
Media reviews from the Norwegian Festival of Literature
Å skrive er verdt alt
Å være i fengsel føltes som et eventyr
Tegnet "Muhammed-katt" og ble kastet i fengsel
Hard konkurranse med norske forfattere