1st-time novelist wins big

Osvalde Lewat wins the Pan-African Literature Prize with ‘Les Aquatiques’

By Anne Bocandé

Posted on January 27, 2022 17:19

Firefox_Screenshot_2022-01-27T11-12-11.241Z Osvalde Lewat was born in Garoua into a Bamileke family © Philippe Matsas
Osvalde Lewat was born in Garoua into a Bamileke family © Philippe Matsas

In her first novel, the documentary filmmaker and photographer Osvalde Lewat attacks social conventions. The Pan-African Literature prize – newly created by the DRC’s President and the African Union’s Chairperson Félix Tshisekedi, and accompanied by $30,000 – will be awarded to her in February in Addis Ababa at the next African Union heads of state summit. I had a chance to meet her shortly before she will receive this award.

Osvalde Lewat can often be found at the Françoise Livinec Gallery, located in a wealthy district of Paris. Director of dozens of documentaries and a photographer, she is currently exhibiting “Lumières Africaines”, an extract from the series Couleurs Nuits, which was first shown in the streets of Kinshasa in 2014. She begins to tell her story through the visual arts: “I devote time to the people I film and photograph, so that we can go beyond the chance encounter. The idea is to decentre the gaze, bring the margin back to the centre and to change our mind about what the margin is.”

Although she has the look of a chic Parisian, it would be unjust to simply place the 45-year-old author in the French capital. A member of the documentary jury at Fespaco, she has just returned from Ouagadougou and will be in South Africa in a few days’ time for a shoot on “the soldiers who joined the ANC’s armed wing”, a film that “is also a documentary on Mandela the warlord.” Just like with her first short film, which she filmed at the age of 23 with marginalised Amerindians in Toronto, Lewat’s directing work has always been driven by social issues and the desire to “give a kick in the pants.”