Last Sunday the Göteborg International Film Festival and International Writers’ Stage Gothenburg co-hosted a conversation between Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Swedish film critic Jannike Åhlund (JÅ). It got weird quickly.
The day after the event (marketed as “Storytelling, colonial past and the present–a conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”) I read columns and Facebook-statuses by horrified attendees. Aware that things often become awkward when Swedes talk about Africa, I was still unprepared for what transpired until I saw video-recording of the event on YouTube (embedded below).
I don’t expect anyone who isn’t a masochist, lover of the bizarre, a student of Euro-supremacy or a diehard fan of Chimamanda (who’s in total control), to sit through the entire conversation, which includes JÅ comparing Half of a Yellow Sun to Gone with the Wind (8:55); JÅ declaring that the actress Thandi Newton, who played the female lead in the film version of Half of a Yellow Sun, is “really white being the twin-sister of Olanna,” prompting Chimamanda to deliver the phenomenal mini-lecture “The Different Ranges of Colour in which Black People Come” (12:45) and JÅ objecting to Chimamanda bringing up Sweden’s colonizing past, prompting another brilliant lecture on Europe’s inability to talk about the legacy of colonialism in an honest way (47:25).
If you, like me, are all of the above, you’ll have a field day though.
In the organizers’ defense, I would call what some considered a disastrous event successful, since it perfectly illustrated how the components in the event’s title play out in today’s Sweden — a country living under the illusion of a special kind of exceptionalism, which includes the assumption that it is “less affected by postcolonial relations than other nations” (the media studies scholar Ylva Habel’s definition).
Here’s the full video: