Véronique Tadjo is a writer, academic, artist and author of books for young people. Born in Paris, she grew up in Abidjan (Côte d´Ivoire) where she attended local schools. She earned a B.A. in English from the University of Abidjan and a doctorate from the Sorbonne, Paris IV, in African American Literature and Civilization. In 1983, she went to Howard University in Washington, D.C. on a Fulbright research scholarship.
In 1979, she chose to teach English at the Lycée Moderne de Korhogo (secondary school) in the North of Côte d´Ivoire.
She subsequently became a lecturer at the English department of the University of Abidjan until 1993 when she took up writing full time.
She began writing and illustrating books for children in 1988 with her first book Lord of the Dance, an African retelling. She was prompted by the desire to contribute to the emergence of literature for children in Africa. Her second book, Mamy Wata and the Monster won the Unicef Award in 1993 and has been published into 8 dual language editions. It is also on the list of the 100 Best African Books of the Century.
In the past few years, she has facilitated workshops in writing and illustrating children´s books in Mali, the Benin Republic, Chad, Haiti, Mauritius, French Guyana, Burundi, Rwanda and South Africa.
She has also been a member of judging panels for several literary international prizes and has been a facilitator in creative writing workshops.
Of the inspiration behind her written and visual work, she says:
“I follow the African tradition of storytelling which gives me a great freedom of interpretation of our myths and legends. I am interested in preserving the richness of our cultural heritage for the generations to come. Many of us live in big African urban centres or in the Diaspora and are increasingly losing contact with oral traditions. One after the other our stories and mythical characters are disappearing. Instead of lamenting this phenomenon, I feel it is my role as a writer and as an artist to fight against alienation and amnesia.”
In 2005, Reine Pokou, concerto pour un sacrifice (Queen Pokou) was awarded Le Grand Prix Littéraire d´Afrique Noire.
She has lived in Paris, Lagos, Mexico City, Nairobi and London. After 14 years in South Africa where she was Professor and head of French and Francophone Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (2007-2015), she now shares her time between London and Abidjan
Publications available in English:
- As The Crow Flies. Translated by Wangui Wa Goro. (Oxford: Heinemann, 2001 and Johannesburg: Penguin Books, 2009)
- The Shadow of Imana, Travels in the heart of Rwanda. Translated by Véronique Wakerley.(Oxford: Heinemann, 2002).
- Red Earth/Laterite – a bilingual edition French/English. Translated by Peter Thompson. (Spokane: Eastern Washington University Press, 2006).
- The Blind Kingdom. Translated by Janis Mayes.(Oxford:Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2008)
- Queen Pokou. Translated by Amy B. Reid. (Oxford:Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2009)
- Far from my Father. Translated by Amy B. Reid. (CARAF series, University of Virginia Press, 2014.)
For young people:
- Lord of The Dance, (London: A&C Black, 1988)
- Mamy Wata and the Monster, The Lucky Grain of Corn and Grandma Nana are available in 8 dual language editions including English (London/Chicago: Milet Publishing, 2000).
- If I were a King, if I were a Queen, (London/Chicago: Milet Publishing, 2002).
- Talking Drums: a selection of poems from Africa. (London: A&C Black, 2000 and 2006)
- Chasing the Sun: a selection of stories from Africa. (London: A&C Black, 2000 and 2006)
- Ayanda, the Little Girl Who Didn’t Want to Grow Up. Illustrated by Catherine Groenewald, Johannesburg, Jacana, 2010.