Character of many talents, the Ivorian was a poet, novelist, and a theater man but also politician and Minister of Culture under Houpnouet-Boigny. Near the Ivorian Popular Front, he had taken up the cause of Laurent Gbagbo while he had been imprisoned since 2011 at the ICC detention center in The Hague (Netherlands).
The author of Climbié and other works that became classics of African literature was the first African writer to celebrate the centenary of his lifetime. Paying tribute to the elder on the occasion of his centenary in 2016, the novelist Koffi Kwahule, wrote in Jeune Afrique "Dadié is to literature what Houphouet is to politics" In other words, a forerunner. Even the matrix from which Ivorian literature was born "Writing is, for me, a desire to ward off darkness, a desire to open to every window on the world" had declared the writer at the ceremony centenary Climbié, his most probably best known novel, published in 1956, is the first Ivorian fiction.
With his play Les Villes, performed in Abidjan in April 1934. Dadié gave the very first play of the dramatic corpus of French-speaking Africa. Finally, last but not least, he was the first and only one to win twice the literary prize of Black Africa, the first time in 1965 with his novel “Patron de New York”, and the second time in 1968 with another novel “La Ville où nul ne meurt”. Born in 1916 in Assinie, not far from Abidjan, on the banks of the Atlantic, the future writer grew up in a family where political struggles and commitment were not empty words.
The father was the founder of the first African agricultural union. Dadié engaged in anti colonial activism, within the “Rassemblement démocratique africain (RDA)”, a formation created under the leadership of Félix Houphouet-Boigny. By the end of the Second World War with the return of African soldiers which had participated in the battles on the European fronts and had seen Europe tear in a long and terrible fratricidal war, the African colonies were shaken by timid movements of release. With his companions fighting for independence, Dadié was arrested and imprisoned in 1949 for "anti-French activities". He will be jailed for sixteen months before being released for the benefit of a non-place.
From theater to politics...
Dadie's political engagement led him from ministerial offices to the government. He was one of the pillars of the Ivorian cultural administration during the long presidency of Houphouët Boigny.
First chief of staff of the Minister of National Education, then Director of Information Services (1959-61), Director des Beaux des Arts (1962-63) and Cultural Affairs (1973-1976), he will finish his political career as Minister of Culture and Information, a position he occupied between 1977 and 1986.
The man had taken worked for a long time with Laurent Gbagbo, going as far as assuming in 2002 the leadership of the National Congress of Resistance for Democracy (CNRD) movement put in place by Simone Gbagbo for the defense of his husband. In 2016, on the occasion of his centenary, he launched a public petition demanding the release of Gbagbo, recalling that "for more than five years the ICC has struggled to provide any material evidence to support the charges against Laurent Gbagbo".
The petition has recalled 26 million signatures! Bernard Dadié's position on the Ivoirian regime was in place didn’t prevent Minister of Culture of Alassane Ouattara to participate in the award ceremony of the Prizewinner to the writer by Unesco, taken place to Abidjan on 11 February 2016.