Stanely Mushava Arts Correspondent
Zimbabwe International Book Fair opened its flagship edition in Harare yesterday with special emphasis on revitalising African languages.
The 31st anniversary of the premier literary fiesta is running under the theme “Indigenous Languages, Literature, Art and Knowledge Systems of Africa.”
The Indaba, Traders’ Day, Young Persons’ Indaba, Writers’ Workshop, Literary Evening, Children’s Reading Tent and Live Literature Centre are some of the activities lined up for the five-day festival.
Renowned imbongi Albert Nyathi and two Malawian poets Daniel Thom and Tawonga Nkhonjera of Dikamamoko Arts lighted up the Indaba with poetry performances.
The poets code-switched languages in line with the indigenous languages galore being pushed by ZIBF.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, ZIBF chairperson Musaemura Zimunya bemoaned funding challenges but expressed his association’s commitment to stage successful book fairs.
Keynote presenter Professor Herbert Chimhundu, who is distinguished for compiling the first Shona dictionary by an African linguist, said underutilisation of trending technology to streamline African languages is the weak link in African development programmes.
Sports, Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa commended ZIBF for this year’s theme which he said dovetails with the ministry’s esteem for local languages as cultural vehicles.
Minister Langa pledged his ministry’s support in facilitating a more central role for African languages in a speech read on his behalf by the principal director of Arts, Culture and Heritage in the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture Rev Paul Damasane.
“The art and knowledge systems are the very expressions of our intangible cultural heritage,” Minister Langa said.
“This is not going to be a talk show but an exchange and intercourse of ideas to provide our nation with answers in the area of culture, heritage, the arts and wider cultural industries.
“We, through this Imbizo, seek to reverse the long held mentality that our languages and knowledge systems cannot take us forward.
“We will use this Imbizo to reengineer, reinvent and reorient our people’s thinking to a transformative afro-centric philosophy,” he said.
Culture Fund of Zimbabwe programmes officer Chipo Muvezwa reiterated her organisation to continue working with ZIBF in its drive to promote the reception of literature.
Culture Fund facilitated the artists’ mobility fund in partnership with HIVOS to enable some writers and publishers to attend the book fair.
Head of EU Delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Aldo Dell’ Ariccia said it is partnering ZIBF towards the accomplishment of the key principles of the UNESCO Convention for the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions ratified by Zimbabwe.
ZIBF was established in 1983 as a meeting place of universal literary cultures and an international market for books.