“Makeda is the hope of a better life for women”

I wanted to write Makeda as a tribute to all the ‘Makeda’ in the world.

Explain to us the context of the publication of your novel Makeda.

Since I arrived in Spain in 2008, I really wanted to write. Makeda is my first novel in Spanish. It was a real challenge. I wanted to see what level of expression I was capable of achieving. Once my book was finished, and with the support of my editor, I rewrote Makeda in French. My novel has also been translated into Italian.

What pushed you to write on this painful and difficult theme of excision?

I have great respect for women. I wanted to write Makeda as a tribute to all the “Makedas” in the world. A woman, from birth, is condemned for the sole fact of being a woman. It is a discriminatory identity mark. Discrimination doesn’t come along the way, it’s there from the beginning. I wanted to write a feminine novel. I searched deep within myself for all the femininity that I inherited from my mother, my wife and my daughter. I brought together all these sensibilities to try to write my novel in a feminine way.

What does the practice of excision consist of?

Excision of the clitoris is a tribal and traditional practice in certain areas of black Africa – particularly in Central Africa and West Africa – but also in some Arab countries such as Egypt. It is female genital mutilation which consists of depriving women of the attributes that nature has given them to enjoy their sexuality. Please note, however, that excision is not a religious practice. Islam, for example, says nothing about genital mutilation.

I describe excision in the first paragraph of my novel. It is therefore very violent, but also poetic and sensitive. I wanted to depict the anger and distress of nature surrounding the act perpetrated on Makeda. But Makeda is not just about female genital mutilation. It’s also forced marriage, terrorism, exile and all the risks she faces during her illegal immigration… Finally, Makeda, it’s the hope of a better life!

Does the first name “Makeda” have anything to do with the famous Queen of Sheba?

Quite. It’s this mythological reference. I wanted a highly symbolic name.

Words have the power to denounce. They allow you to sow now to reap tomorrow.

Is the main character in your book based on a real person?

No, the character is a figment of my imagination. I wanted a clean story. Makeda is a young girl who, during the Paris-Dakar, found a Paris Match magazine. There she discovers a photo of a model. For years, she placed this photo under her pillow. One day, she decides to go to Europe to realize her dream: to become a model herself.

Bouziane Ahmed Khodja at the literary meeting this Thursday, May 23 at MUVIM.
Bouziane Ahmed Khodja at the literary meeting this Thursday, May 23 at MUVIM.

Do you think that literature is an effective lever for denouncing violence?

Absolutely. All writers who can denounce this type of practice must do so. If one day someone picks up their pen to write, then we must no longer abdicate responsibility. Writing can allow a reader to gain awareness and, perhaps, pass it on to their children. Words have the power to denounce, they allow us to sow now to reap tomorrow.

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NEXT Valady. Jean Couet-Guichot and Gaya Wisniewski, two artists in residence within the region