Stella Gaitano

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Stella Gaitano
Native name
إستيلا قايتانو
Born1979 (age 42–43)
Khartoum, Sudan
Occupationpharmacist and literary writer
CitizenshipSouth Sudan
Alma materUniversity of Khartoum
Genreshort stories, novel
Years active2002 - present
Notable awardsAli El-Mek Award, Sudan

Stella Gaitano (Arabic: إستيلا قايتانو, b. 1979 in Khartoum, Sudan) is a literary writer and pharmacist from South Sudan. She is known for her stories often dealing with the harsh living conditions of people from southern Sudan, who have endured discrimination and military dictatorship, or war and displacement in the northern part of Sudan. Since the independence of South Sudan in 2011, she also has published short stories about life in her new nation.

Life and career[edit]

Having grown up in a neighbourhood of Khartoum before the separation of the southern from the northern part of Sudan, Gaitano learned several languages. With her parents from the South, she spoke Latuka, a South Sudanese language, and with other people, Sudanese Arabic. At the University of Khartoum, she studied in English and standard Arabic. - For her stories, she prefers to write in Arabic, which is her language of choice for writing, but not an official language of South Sudan. Since 2012, Gaitano has been living in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, where her books are published. She works as a pharmacist, while at the same time pursuing her literary career.[1]

In an article for the New York Times by Sudanese journalist Isma’il Kushkush, she said: “I love the Arabic language, and I adore writing in it. It is the linguistic mold that I want to fill my personal stories and culture in, distinguished from that of Arabs.” Further, she explained her reasons for using Arabic: “It was important for me that northern Sudanese realize that there was life, values and a people who held a different culture, who needed space to be recognized and respected.”[1]

Withered Flowers (2002), Gaitano’s first short story collection, tells the stories of people who have been displaced by conflicts in southern Sudan, Darfur, and the Nuba mountains and were forced to live in camps near Khartoum.[2] They were written between 1998 and 2002, when Gitano was still a student.[3] According to literary critic Marcia Lynx Qualey, "This early work demonstrates vibrant wordplay, fearless empathy and a deep understanding of storycraft."[4]

In her second collection The Return (2018), she described the southward journey of South Sudanese people from the North to their newly created country. Further, she told of her characters' expectations and great hopes, and their even greater disappointments.[5] In 2016, her Testimony of a Sudanese Writer was featured in the English literary magazine Banipal's spring edition, titled Sudanese Literature Today.[6]

On the occasion of an exhibition for Sudanese painter Ibrahim el-Salahi at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2019, Gaitano was invited to use el-Salahi’s Prison Notebook as a source of inspiration for creating an original, fictional narrative, and she focussed her story The Rally of the Sixth of April on a fictional Sudanese photographer documenting the Sudanese Revolution of 2018/19.[7][8]

In 2020, her Eddo’s Souls was the first South Sudanese novel to win the English PEN writers Translates Award.[9] According to a review in literary magazine ArabLit, "The novel begins across a rural context, in a small impoverished village full of mystery, rituals, and superstition, and it ends in a jam-packed city with all its complications."[10]

As she had publicly criticized the South Sudanese authorities because of mismanagement, corruption and its role in the South Sudanese civil war, she was harassed and attacked and had to flee back to Khartoum in 2015.[11] In 2022, Gaitano was awarded a fellowship of the PEN International Writers-in-Exile programme in Germany. On September 11 of that year she participated in the International Literature Festival Berlin on a panel about contemporary Arabic literature, together with novelist Sabah Sanhouri from Khartoum.[12]

Selected works[edit]

Short stories
  • Withered Flowers, short stories, (2002), English translation by Anthony Calderbank[3]
  • A Lake the Size of a Papaya Fruit, (2003), won the Ali El-Mek Award in Sudan
  • The Return, short stories, Rafiki Publishing, Juba (2015), translated by Asha Musa El-Said[13]
  • Everything here boils
  • Homecoming
  • Escape From the Regular
  • I kill myself and rejoice[14]
  • The Rally of the Sixth of April, (2019) (inspired by Ibrahim el-Salahi's prison notebook, in Arabic and English)[7]
  • Des mondes inconnus sur la carte (2009) in French anthology Nouvelles du Soudan[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kushkush, Isma’il (25 December 2015). "Telling South Sudan's Tales in a Language Not Its Own". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  2. ^ "Book review: Stella Gitanoʹs "Withered Flowers": Mapping an unknown world -". 4 August 2020. Archived from the original on 4 August 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  3. ^ a b Lynx Qualey, Marcia (20 October 2018). "Review: Stella Gitano's 'Withered Flowers'". & Arablit. Retrieved 19 June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Lynx Qualey, Marcia (12 October 2018). "Book review: Stella Gitanoʹs "Withered Flowers": Mapping an unknown world". - Dialogue with the Islamic World. Retrieved 22 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "Contemporary Arabic Literature – Writing the Two Sudans. Sabah Sanhouri: Paradise / Stella Gaitano: The Return". international literature festival berlin. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  6. ^ Banipal. "Sudanese Literature Today". Retrieved 19 June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ a b "The Rally of the Sixth of April | Magazine | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  8. ^ Lynx Qualey, Marcia (6 November 2019). "Stella Gaitano, Ibrahim El-Salahi's Prison Notebook, and Sudanese Uprisings". Retrieved 19 June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ Peterson, Angeline (15 June 2020). "Stella Gaitano Eddo's Souls is First South Sudanese Novel to Win PEN Translates Award". Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  10. ^ Shammat, Lemya (17 June 2020). "'Eddo's Souls': A Novel of Motherhood and Fragmentation in Sudan and South Sudan". ArabLit & ArabLit Quarterly. Retrieved 20 June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Ridlowski, Fabian (2 October 2022). "HA+ „Der Regierung hat es nicht gefallen": Stella Gaitano musste fliehen". Hellweger Anzeiger (in German). Retrieved 28 October 2022.
  12. ^ "Contemporary Arabic Literature – Writing the Two Sudans. Sabah Sanhouri: Paradise / Stella Gaitano: The Return". international literature festival berlin. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  13. ^ Gaitano, Stella (2018). The return: short stories; translated by Asha El-Said. Rafiki for Printing & Publishing. OCLC 1229999547.
  14. ^ Gaetano, Stella. "I kill myself and rejoice!". The Niles. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Nouvelles du Soudan". Retrieved 29 June 2020.

Further reading[edit]