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Photo: Portrait by Johanna Ghebray, 2021.

Bio

Sharon Dodua Otoo is a novelist and a political activist. She writes prose, essays, edits the book series “Witnessed” and curates the German-language literature festival "Resonanzen". Her debut novel “Adas Raum" has been translated into many languages. Otoo won the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2016, a major international literary award in German speaking countries. » read more

Peter Weiss Prize 2023  |  Statement by Sharon Dodua Otoo

“To reach the truth we have to talk.”
Peter Weiss

 

Dear members of the jury, dear representatives of the city of Bochum,
First of all, I would like to express my deepest sympathy to those bereaved by the massacre committed by Hamas on 7 October. I can only imagine your pain, your loss and your fear for the safety of the abducted hostages. No doubt your grief and pain will last for a very long time.
My horror and abhorrence concerning the brutal violence of Hamas is unequivocal. There is no justification for it. I deeply regret that we, the ones who are not affected personally, did not manage to make our sympathy and solidarity more visible and tangible. This has caused many Jewish people, also here in Germany, to feel abandoned.
Now should be a time for contemplation, listening and empathy. This is what it should be about. However, for Israeli people and German people with close ties to Israel there is hardly any time for grief. Instead, Jewish people are required to speak up, justify and defend themselves in a public debate that clearly lacks recognition and understanding for Jewish trauma. German antisemitism was never really gone and is resurfacing again in 2023. Many Jewish parents are afraid to bring their children to childcare, people who are visibly religious are scared to move around in public, Jewish institutions and shops are threatened and attacked. This is unforgivable. We urgently need more spaces for the pursuit of understanding and exchange, and in which mutual empathy and reflection is possible. All of us have to work together in order to create and maintain these spaces. I am saddened that the focus is being shifted to something else instead, especially because these rooms are so desperately needed.
Antisemitism in Germany can only be fought together, in coalitions, in solidarity groups and through exchange. I am convinced of this. I admire all those who manage to muster up the courage and energy in these difficult times to maintain these spaces. And I am thankful for the work of all people who recognize that these spaces need to be anti-discriminatory, and that, by way of example, antisemitism cannot be fought with Anti-Muslim racism. There is no quick and easy solution.
When I signed the petition of “Artists for Palestine UK” around 2015, I wanted to position myself as an individual in solidarity with the non-violent resistance of artists in Palestine. Those of you who know my artistic, curatorial, and activist work know that I strive, above all, to find words, to engage in conversations and to remain in dialogue. On this journey, I might sometimes need to take a break, but I always endeavor to treat others in a respectful way. Today, I would not sign such a petition. This is why I distance myself from it and will attempt, with legal support, to remove my name from the list. I am always in favour of exchange, all the more here in Germany.
To reach the truth we have to talk. Art and culture have a special role in this context. We also need space to disagree, in order to reach a joint understanding.
Therefore I am grateful to all those who call my attention to mistakes I have made. I only hope that those who have been negatively affected or hurt by my actions will be able to recognise my sincere effort for what it is.
I am deeply thankful and feel humbled that the city of Bochum wanted to acknowledge my work through this prize. However, I ask for your understanding that I will not accept it. I do not want the jury members, the city of Bochum or the name of Peter Weiss associated with the allegations against me and the ensuing debate.
My tentative and humble suggestion is to adjourn this year’s prize and donate the money to a charity organisation, for example the initiative “Gesellschaft im Wandel” (“Changing Society”). It is a joint endeavour by Jouanna Hassoun, a German-Palestinian education activist, and Shai Hoffmann, a German-Jewish social entrepreneur and activist. They offer conversations – trialogues – about the conflict in the Middle East in schools all over Germany. I admire their work and value their commitment to political education, multi-perspectivity and mutual understanding.
With kind regards,
Sharon Dodua Otoo

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Photo: Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński / Logo: Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen 2022

Resonance

A Festival of Black German-Language Fiction
Black German-language fiction has a long and distinguished tradition, from the first novel by Black German author Dualla Misipo, written towards the end of the Weimar Republic, to recent titles by Black authors, who are making an ever-greater impact. Resonance - A Festival of Black German-Language Fiction is a cooperation between the Ruhrfestspiele and the writer and political activist Sharon Dodua Otoo. This festival aims to rethink, reimagine and further develop perspectives and experiences within the German-language literary scene. » read more
Book cover of In Audre's Footsteps: White background with black silhouette of a person, title in silhouette with In and Footsteps in white and Audre's in red.
   

First page of In Audre's Footsteps: White page with

 

Witnessed

A Black Author's Book Series
Witnessed is an English language book series, launched October 2012, that documents experiences of being Black in Germany and is published by edition assemblage. » read more

Calendar

All upcoming events, readings and lectures.
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Newsletter

News about my work
in English  » via Ko-fi
in German » via Steady

Contacts

Please check you have used the correct spelling of the given names: Sharon Dodua and of the surname: Otoo. Here is also a » voice recording of the name. 

julia.giordano [at] fischerverlage.de
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janina.bradacs [at] fischerverlage.de
Readings & Events

graf [at] agenturgraf.de
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bookings [at] sharonotoo.com
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