Beaven Tapureta Bookshelf
Whilst the World Book and Copyright Day, which falls on April 23 every year, must surely have been welcomed as a big celebration by local authors, the day silently slipped past but thanks to the Harare City Library (HCL) which belatedly recognised last Friday.
The day April 23 was selected by UNESCO for several reasons in 1995 but the idea originated from booksellers back in 1923. It is also believed that it is on this date that great authors William Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega died.
Be that as it may, Zimbabwe is not alien to the book and copyright world. Publishing, book piracy, reading culture; all are the brass tacks in the current local literary discourse, subjects or main focus of some local copyright organisations such as African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) and ZimCopy.
Yet at the Harare City Library, how surprising that chairs for the invited major stakeholders in the book and copyright industry were empty. A speaker from the Zimbabwe chapter of IBBY (International Board for Books for Youths) who was expected to talk about copyright did not turn up. What went wrong?
However, what authors and other adults shunned on the day was turned into momentous fun and unforgettable learning by about 51 children from Tariro and Nadias Primary Schools from Hopley and Hatfield respectively.
Held under the long sub-theme ‘You are in a library. You can’t possibly say you can’t find a book to read’, the belated commemoration offered refreshing moments of reading, story-telling and exciting games which made children mix and mingle and share ideas, enveloped by the library’s magical ambience. For convenience sake, the children were split into two groups.
Young author Aasia Qamar Sial graced the occasion and spent time with a group of some children in Grades 5, 6 and 7 in the conference room upstairs. She shared how the library, the school and the home or family shaped her into the budding writer that she is. Much time was dedicated to reading and discussing her stories, including “A Vampire as a Sister” which Bookshelf once talked about few months ago. Aasia inspired her group of new friends to immediately want to be avid readers and learn to write their own stories.
One of the few adult writers present, Admire Gomo, who also teaches at Tariro Primary School in Hopley, read to this group two of his poems featured in the new Shona poetry anthology “Mafuro Manyoro” (2017). Another group of Grades 2, 3 and 4 pupils spent time in the Petina Gappah Children’s Library, enjoying storytelling, games and quiet reading activities. You could see how freely the children laughed, asked questions, played around, and seriously flipped through pages of some books they picked anywhere nearby.
Although in different interviews with Bookshelf the teachers and the librarians expressed joy at the success of the commemoration, they hinted the lack of local reading material for children in schools and libraries as a great challenge. Assistant Librarian Takwana Masunda said he would not put the blame on local authors but on local consumers who have a flair for books in foreign languages and this discourages local writers.
Masunda said the essence of the World Book and Copyright Day is echoed in this year’s Zimbabwe International Book Fair theme, that is, ‘Making the Book Pay’, and this clearly explains why writers must benefit from their works. Copyright and related rights have seen HCL disallowing photocopying by library users, added Masunda.
“In an attempt to stop copyright abuse, we have completely prohibited photocopying and when we have the money we buy the much-needed books. We have had some library users photocopying a part of the book today and another part tomorrow until they are done with the whole book. We decided ‘no’ to that tendency because we want the authors to benefit also,” said Masunda.
Another HCL assistant librarian, Carol Chiwetu, encouraged local authors to either come to the library to interact with the school children or donate their books. She highlighted that children’s literature authors must refrain from using big Shona words and in some instances, writing big books, as this gives the children the impression that the library is for adults only.
Mercy Mataera, a teacher at Nadias Primary School told Bookshelf that it becomes a challenge when school libraries are short on new books by local authors.
However, she said bringing the children to library events like this day is helpful. Catherine Maruta who teaches at Tariro Primary School was greatly thankful to the HCL for inviting her school which comes from a disadvantaged community Hopley. Tariro Primary School has of late launched weekly visits to the HCL, an activity which has exposed the students to more books to fill up their reading passions.
According to UNESCO, Conakry, the capital city of Guinea, an African country, is the 2017 world book capital.