Stanely Mushava Arts Correspondent
The flagship edition of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair opened in Harare on Monday with special emphasis on mobilising the knowledge economy. The 32nd anniversary of the book fair is running under the theme “Growing the Knowledge Economy through Research, Writing, Publishing and Reading”.
Stakeholders in the book value chain presented papers on research, writing, creative industries, marketing and book policy during the first day of the Indaba. The book fair opened with a minute of silence for two of Zimbabwe’s literary notables, Chenjerai Hove and Freedom Nyamubaya, who passed away recently.
Keynote speaker Walter Bgoya, of Mkuki na Nyota Publishers from Tanzania, said there was a lot of nostalgia for the heydays of the book fair outside Zimbabwe.
“In my travels and meetings with other African publishers, despite their participation in other book fairs such as the European ones (Frankfurt, London, Bologna), and the African ones (Lagos, Nairobi, Cape Town), there still lingers great nostalgia for the heydays of the ZIBF in the eighties and nineties,” Bgoya said.
The veteran publisher, who has been in the game for more than four decades, said ZIBF was unique in its expression of Africa’s creative vibrancy and shared aspirations.
“ZIBF was a place for publishers and other players in the book chain to dream of a future with publishers and avid young African readers taking our countries and our continent into the 21st century with confidence and conviction of a good place in the world of books,” Bgoya said.
“There was this great atmosphere. We were really looking forward to coming to Harare,” he said.
Bgoya told The Herald Entertainment that African publishers were badly hit by structural adjustment in the early nineties, hence the slump in international exhibitions.
“Zimbabwe also suffered a lot of negative propaganda and some publishers were not even sure they would be safe here,” he said.
Bgoya said with economies markedly improved across the continent, the next frontier is reviving the reading culture, especially among techno-captive youths.
“It’s not an issue which format you like your books in but there is no alternative to reading. If you are tired of literature, culture or music, you are in big trouble,” he said.
He also pointed out the pointlessness of African societies’ participation in the ICTs revolution as long as its possibilities are not harnessed to improve pillar sectors such as food security, education and healthcare. ZIBFA executive chairperson Obey Bvute said organisers were mobilising resources to “bring back the old glories and popularity of the book fair”.
“There is a need for significant improvement on the way we have been doing business so that we financially retool and rebrand to remain competitive in a competitive global market,” Bvute said.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Dr Lazarus Dokora unveiled exciting plans to introduce literature in indigenous languages as a separate subject at secondary level.
He encouraged authors to write with an educational import, mindful of their influence on readers.
“Different authors from within and from without Africa have bemoaned what literary critics have termed cultural decadence or its avuncularsuccessor: neo-cultural imperialism,” Dr Dokora said.
“We do not wish to envisage a day when this decadence is attributed to our pens,” he said.
The minister urged writers to streamline positive values such as integrity and dignity into their work and described ubuntu as a fertile ground for literature.
Spoken word poet Chenjerai Mazambani (VaSadza) gave a captivating performance from newly released multi-authored poetry collection “Dzinonyandura: Svinga Renduri” before the editor of the anthology, Tinashe Muchuri (Mutumwapavi), gave a hilarious performance entitled “Zvokwedu”.
Tapiwa Maduwa (Afrikan Kid) recited from his first poetry anthology, “Marry My Language”. Paida Muzanhi also presented a short poem set to a violin piece.
Other events lined up for the book fair include Exhibitions, Meet the Author Sessions, Live Literature Centre, Children’s Reading Tent, the Digital Zone and the Writers, Publishers, Booksellers and Librarians Workshop.