Absinthe, Volume 26: readings from VIBRATE! Resounding the Frequencies of Africana in Translation


On December 6, 2019, the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan hosted a reading to preview Volume 26 of Absinthe: World Literature in Translation, entitled VIBRATE!  Resounding the Frequencies of Africana in Translation. 

The new issue is co-edited by Imani Cooper Mkandawire and Xiaoxi Zhang , both Comparative Literature PhD students, together with UM Professor Frieda Ekotto.

Absinthe 26: VIBRATE! contemplates the implications of Africa and its diasporas in translation, moving through various temporalities and mediums and languages, including Lugosa, Kamba, English, French, Swahili, Arabic, Adinkra Symbols, visual codes, and digital languages. 

The reading began with excerpts from “The Art of Looking: A Letter by Frieda Ekotto to Frida Kahlo,” translated by Emily Goedde (UM ’15 PhD in Comparative Literature).

The essay was read in French by UM Professor Benedicte Boisseron and in English by Comparative Literature PhD student Sahin Acikgoz.


The Kenyan writer Abdilatif Abdalla magically appeared on screen from Germany to read from poetry translated together with UM Professor Kelly Askew.  

Listen here to Abdalla’s reading of “Kibaruwa” in Swahili, followed by Askew’s reading of “Casual Laborer” in English.

UM Lecturer Nyambura Mpesha also presented selections from her poetry featured in Absinthe 26.

Listen here to Mpesha’s reading of “M-Diag” in Swahili and her explanation of how she translated her poem into English. Dedicated to her students, the poem is a warning not to step on the Block M embedded in the diagonal sidewalk in front of the University of Michigan Library…it’s bad luck!

Other Comparative Literature PhD students also participated in the reading. Alex Aguayo introduced all the presenters and Shalmali Jadhav read Merit Kabugo’s English translation of “The Unending Game” by Susan Kiguli.


Works by Afua Ansong and Mary Pena were read by Imani Cooper, who ended the program with a powerful reading of her own poem, “Inheritance: Ode to N’TOO.”

The online issue of Absinthe 26: Vibrate is available here and advance orders for print copies can be placed here.

For more information about the journal, published by the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, go to Absinthe: World Literature in Translation