'one thing I love about being a bilingual writer is that I get to play with language.' An Interview with Edwige Dro.

Edwige at Tedx Abidjan. Video is in French only. Perhaps Edwige will provide us with subtitles one day. :-)


Edwige Dro is a writer, translator and leading literary activist on the continent. She is passionate passionate about bridging the gap between Anglophone, Lusophone, Francophone and Spanish-speaking Africa through literature, and is playing an active role in the creation of a publishing industry on the continent intent on bringing African writing to African readers.


Tiah: You write in French and English and work as a translator. Things rarely read well in direct translation. Would you say, then, that translation is, in itself, an art of storytelling? 

Edwige: Ah!  This thing called translation.  Yes, I will say that.  It is being very much aware of the culture in which the original writer, if I can express myself thus, wrote and understand, in all its nuanced form, what that writer meant.  Basically, you are not only just making the piece your own but you are entering the original writer’s head.  The artistry comes from being faithful to the story as the original writer intended.  Because when all has been said and done, it is not your story.


Tiah:  In your own writing, do you find certain stories suit one language better than another? Or is the language guided more by submission guidelines?

Edwige: Yes, more or less, re certain stories suiting one language better.  But one thing I love about being a bilingual writer is that I get to play with language, and that is the reason why I love writing in English.  I can frenchify my English simply because of the way I make my sentences.  Then I can put in French words in it.  And then to show my Ivorian-ness, I will put in Nouchi (Ivorian slang) and dioula words. 


Tiah: Tell us about the project Abidjan Lit.

Edwige: Well, Abidjan Lit or Abidjan reads has died a little bit.  Health problems in the family as well as the birth of my daughter meant the project couldn’t go further but we will start again.  What however is about to start is a series of writing masterclasses myself and another Ivorian writer, Yehni Djidji are going to be running in Abidjan from 15th, August.  So, watch this space.


Tiah: Your profile on PEN International states that you are "passionate about getting the Francophone voice into the mainstream." So many voices are on the sidelines. What is helping to get Francophone heard?

Edwige:  Well, we are all in our world, aren’t we?  And yet, we all do the same job, the job of writing.  We are having a few voices like those of Mabanckou being heard.  But I think translation will get these voices heard; collaboration also between writers on this continent.


Tiah: What do you feel is going right in the African literary scene?

Edwige: We are producing more work; good conversations re collaboration/translation are happening.  We are realising that we need strong publishing houses on the continent and marketing our books on this continent.  So I hope these conversations come to fruition.  When that happens – strong publishing houses developing literature outside of the written form into audio or play forms, having collaboration – we will stop hearing all these what is an African Writer/what is African Literature/Are you an African Writer….  We are not owning our literature at the moment, but I’m glad to see things are changing.  I was at Writivism recently and these are the kind of conversations we had.

On Edwige's Bedside Table:

Yehni Djidji: she is an Ivorian writer.
Bernard Dadié because I want to translate one of his plays into English – he is also an Ivorian writer. 
Our Wole Soyinka.

That’s it!!!! I’m writing a lot however – got deadlines coming out of my ears

Edwige-Renée DRO is an Ivorian writer living in Abidjan, the economical capital of Côte d’Ivoire.  She is a laureate of the Africa39 project and a short-listed writer for the 2014 edition of the Morland Writing Scholarship.  She is also the 2015 PEN International New Voices Award judge.

Edwige is passionate about bridging the gap between Anglophone, Lusophone, Francophone and Spanish-speaking Africa through literature.  She is also an advocate for exploring other forms of arts to bring literature alive so that as many people as possible are reached.  This passion was evidenced in the TEDx talk she gave during the general assemblies of the African Development Bank which took place in Abidjan in May 2015. 

Her short stories have been published in the Africa39 anthology published by Bloomsbury, Prufrock magazine, the Valentine’s Day anthology published by Ankara Press among others.  Her first novel, I Didn’t Come To Stare At Big Ben, is currently under consideration with Cassava Republic.