Safia Elhillo as writer in residence in the Netherlands

1-30 June

In June, the Sudanese-American poet Safia Elhillo will live and work as a writer in residence in Amsterdam, at the invitation of the Dutch Foundation for Literature and Poetry International. During her residency she will perform several times as part of the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam.

Safia Elhillo

Photo by Aris Theotoka.

Safia Elhillo was born in 1990 in Rockville, Maryland, United States, to Sudanese parents. From an early age, she made a name for herself with her spoken poetry and after a kickstart on the slam circuit, her written work began to gain attention, including through publications in magazines and anthologies such as The Break Beat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (2015) and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism (2018). In 2017, the University of Nebraska Press published her debut collection The January Children. The personal search into being Arab and African and the tensions that having this linked identity evokes, earned her the 2018 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and the Arab American Book Award. In addition, Elhillo was included in Forbes Africa’s “30 Under 30” list that year. Two more books by Elhillo were subsequently published by Random House: the poetic novel Home is Not a Country (2021) and the poetry collection Girls That Never Die (2022).


The residency of Safia Elhillo is a joint effort of the Dutch Foundation for Literature and the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, where she will participate in several programs during her residency:

  • June 4, 18:30: Tell ‘Em Festival in Rotterdam, program on the roof of the Nederlands Fotomuseum in collaboration with Woorden Worden Zinnen and Paginagroots. During this program various poets and spoken word artists will be heard, including Elhillo. Tickets are for sale via the Tell ‘Em website;
  • 7 June, 18:00 to 21:00: workshop on writing poetry in the Rotterdam Library. The workshop is in English and can be followed by anyone aged 18 and over. Tickets are for sale via Poetry International’s website;
  • June 10 to 12: during the Poetry International Festival, Elhillo takes part in various programs, including a production with the Rotterdam dance group Amenti Theater Company. For more information, see the festival’s website.

Writers residence

Since 2006, the Dutch Foundation for Literature has been welcoming foreign authors to its writer’s residence on the Spui in Amsterdam, in the literary heart of the city. Dozens of writers from all over the world have been inspired by this place during their stay. Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, whose oeuvre earned her the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2019, worked on her 2018 Man Booker International Prize winning novel Flights, John Green wrote his multi-award winning and adapted YA novel The fault in our stars, and the young Israeli author Nir Baram embarked here on the highly acclaimed World shadow.

More information

Raoul Markaban


Raoul Markaban

Grants specialist

[email protected]