Gaitano_(c)_Alfons Nicola Wol Aliu.jpg
(c) Alfons Nicola Wol Aliu

Guest 2016.


The Return

Short Stories


Juba, 2016

[Ü: Asha Musa El-Said]

Stella Gaitano [ South Sudan ]

Stella Gaitano was born in 1979 to Khartoum, Sudan. Her family comes from South Sudan. She studied pharmacy at Khartoum University. She has said that she started writing stories while she was still at primary school. Among the authors who have influenced her, Gaitano cites the Sudanese At-Tayyib Salih, as well as Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. During her studies, she came into contact with intellectuals and political activists, after which she intensified her writing and started to write about herself, her family and her people.

Gaitano says that she wrote one of her first short stories, »A Lake the Size of a Papaya Fruit«, in half an hour, inspired by her grandmother. It was a revelation for her. The story, for which she was swiftly awarded a literary prize in 2003, is about a girl and her grandmother who have to make their way through life alone, after the girls’ parents and grandfather die. »Wilted Flowers« (2002) is Gaitano’s first book of short stories. It describes the fate of people who have fled from the murderous conflicts in South Sudan, Darfur and the Nuba mountains and are living in refugee camps near Khartoum. In her latest work, »The Return« (2015), Gaitano describes the return of many South Sudanese from the North to their newly founded state. She portrays the immense expectations aroused, great hopes and even greater disappointments. Gaitano herself migrated in 2012 from North to South Sudan. She is considered an important voice of her people, who have known both war and expulsion. She writes in Arabic, for which she is criticized by certain South Sudanese colleagues, who see it as – according to Gaitano– a »colonialist tool«. In South Sudan, English is the official language and most authors write in English. Gaitano, however, feels that language is »the soul of the text« and hopes that South Sudan also has a place for Arabic. At the same time, even South Sudanese critics recognize her as »their nation’s ambassador in the Arab world«. Gaitano won the Professor Ali El-Mek Award in 2001 and 2004. She comments regularly on the political situation in Sudan and South Sudan in newspaper articles. She also participates in the initiative Youth for My Country, which attempts to ease the suffering of the many victims of violence in South Sudan by offering pragmatic, hands-on solutions. Stella Gaitano lives in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.