Handing over the legacy of an African to the City of Berlin
Berlin, Germany 15 Nov 2013
On Friday, November 1, 2013, Prince and professor Kum´a Ndumbe III said farewell to the German capital after a longstanding, not always easy relationship with Germany and Berlin.
To the Governing Mayor of Berlin,
Mr Klaus Wowereit
Dear Governing Mayor of Berlin,
I am writing to you from the house at Spichernstraße where Bertold Brecht und Helene Weigel once lived, where Brecht wrote The Threepenny Opera before both of them emigrated to America in 1933. I am staying with my son Ménès Kum. As an African writer, dramaturg, professor and thinker, who after the colonial era, dictatorship and emigration has sometimes desperately sought to enter into a dialogue with Berlin and Germany for the past fifty years, I ask you to allow me to hereby pass on my humble contribution as the legacy of an African to the City of Berlin:
The African legacy constituted in Berlin and to be handed over to the Berliners
1. Of my 150 international publications, the following were written in Berlin: 20 books in German, French, English, Duala and Ewondo which I as a writer and scholar published in Berlin between 2005 and 2013 (parcel enclosed) www.exchange-dialogue.com.
2. An association for intercultural exchange and for conflict resolution between peoples, countries and continents, the Berlin chapter of the foundation AfricAvenir International, registered as AfricAvenir International e.V. in Berlin in 2000 (flyers enclosed).
3. For the long-term promotion of tolerance, diversity, interculturality and peaceful coexistence in Berlin, I cordially beseech you to make this high-quality African contribution available as a parcel to Berlin schools, universities, libraries and cultural institutions respectively.
Statement of grounds for this handover
1. I came to Berlin in 1987 to do research and to habilitate at Freie Universität Berlin. At the time, the Governing Mayor of Berlin made an effort to find me a position at TU Berlin for my habilitation research and a decent flat in Wiesbadener Straße 18.
In 1989 I habilitated at the Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science in the first round and taught there as Deputy Professor until 2001/2002, when the chair was rededicated under the pretext of budget cuts and restructuring. Students, citizens eand media were outraged but powerless.
From this point onwards, suddenly all doors in Berlin and Germany were systematically closed for me – in teaching, science, research, in development cooperation, in expertise, journalism and even in the media. Permanent unemployment, structural violence, humiliation, illness, a mountain of debt, and hopelessness turned into an almost inhered destiny for me in the reunified aspiring City of Berlin. I persevered and would only take my leave if survival was no longer possible.
I gave up my last apartment in Neukölln on September 3, 2009, it was so contaminated it was carcinogenic, and I did not put in an application to receive social welfare, not even now, being a pensioner with an income of 328 Euros. Nevertheless I had the clear intention that I was definitely going to leave a lasting legacy to the German citizens. In 2009 I attended the Frankfurt Book Fair to present my anthology of eleven books written in German, comprising narratives, plays, essays and treatises which had been published one after another since 2005. My doctoral and habilitation theses written in German had already been published before 1999.
With today’s delivery, I present the City of Berlin with eleven books in German, six in French, two in Duala/Ewondo/French and one in English with my script. So these are twenty books with a German ISBN number which were published during a very difficult time for me in Berlin. These publications were only made possible thanks to the collaboration in solidarity and on an equal footing with German, European and African friends.
2. Already in 2000 my German students at FU Berlin, who had desperately struggled to keep me as their teacher, initiated a German chapter of my foundation AfricAvenir International in Berlin, which I had founded in Cameroon in 1985, and in 2010 celebrated its tenth anniversary in Berlin www.africavenir.org. AfricAvenir International e.V. has the aim of speaking with Africa and not about “Africa” and to create spaces for African perspectives in the public sphere in Berlin and Germany. African intellectuals and artists are invited to a variety of event formats where they can present their work and their ideas and discuss with the audience. This contributes to reducing stereotypes about Africa through dialogue and opening a new window for German and Berlin citizens to the lasting enrichment of their individual lives. In 2013 the German chapter of AfricAvenir International holds steady as an established platform for exchange, interculturality and diversity in Berlin. I am very grateful I could contribute to this entrusted legacy with an African background during my time in Berlin.
3. One of my former students at the Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science has initiated a Namibian chapter of the foundation AfricAvenir International in Windhoek and regularly promotes international dialogue with African films in a professional manner.
How this entrusted legacy of a writer and scholar of African descent in Berlin shall be made available
1. The City of Berlin is to present Berlin schools, universities and cultural institutions respectively with one copy of the 20 books published in Berlin and written in four languages by the author of African descent, Kum’a Ndumbe III. Eleven of these books were originally written in German.
2. AfricAvenir International e.V. in Berlin is to realise projects of diversity, interculturality and peaceful coexistence with these institutions which have acquired these books. In Austria a similar strategy with these books was initiated in 2012 by the Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, entitled “Das Eigene und das Fremde” (Familiarity and Foreignness) http://www.africavenir.org/projects-austria.html.
Dear Governing Mayor of Berlin,
Please be assured that you can trust in the literary and academic quality of this legacy entrusted to you for your city. I was president of the Cameroonian Writers’ Guild for ten years and vice-president of the Writers’ Guild of Central African States for nine years. In 1982 I was invited to Cologne to contemplate the following motto with Heinrich Böll, Bernt Engelmann and many other writers: “Es geht, es geht: zeitgenössische Schriftsteller und ihr Beitrag zum Frieden – Grenzen und Möglichkeiten” (Not bad, not bad: contemporary writers and their contribution to peace – limitations and possibilities). Hans-Christoph Buch invited me to come to Berlin in May 1988, when European writers came together to discuss the topic, “Ein Traum von Europa” (A dream of Europe) and to draw up concepts for the mutual rapprochement of European nations. I gave a talk entitled, “Damit ein Traum von Europa kein Alptraum für die Welt wird” (So the dream of Europe may not become a nightmare for the world). Daniel Cohn-Bendit hosted my speech, and the writer May Ayim rushed up to the podium to embrace me.
In 1975 I was awarded a double Phd from the university of Lyon II, and due to my research on the African policy of National Socialism I was admitted to the Comité international d’histoire de la deuxième guerre mondiale (International Committee for the History of the Second World War), where I, at not even thirty, sat together with generals who had fought the Second World War, and with high-ranking professors from all over the world. Commissioned by the magazine “Das Parlament”, I wrote a study in German about “National Socialism and Apartheid”, but publication was denied. Subsequently, Jean Paul Sartre asked me to compile a short version in French, which he then published in Paris in 1973. Only in 2006 was this study made available to German citizens.
As a habilitated professor, I have mentored and supported many German, European, Cameroonian and African students and researchers and have facilitated exchange programmes between Germany and Cameroon.
In 2013 I was ceremoniously admitted to the “Inaugural Hall of Fame” in Atlanta, USA by the American institutions “A.D. King Foundation” and “African Diaspora World Tourism Award” next to Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali, Danny Glover, Congressman James Clyburn, Ambassador Andy Young, Coretta Scott King and Congressman John Lewis, and was awarded the medal of “Outstanding Culture and Heritage Scholar 2013”.
You can therefore rely on the quality and authority of the writings produced here.
Maybe it was a mistake that I didn’t content myself with only coming here from time to time as a guest and being given a warm welcome, but that I believed that as an African in Berlin I could always be a writer professor, researcher and social co-creator and could keep on being involved.
Today I’m leaving, especially since I can’t afford to rent a room in this city as a pensioner without falling into the social welfare trap. However, I am bequeathing a personal legacy which I entrust to you as the Governing Mayor of Berlin, so that this city may also have access to a sound, Africa-oriented foundation for tolerance, diversity and the prevention of conflicts that result in violence.
I remain respectfully yours,
Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III , University professor emeritus