Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

27 July 2011

2011 ZIBF Indaba Conference Highlights: Part Two

                                          “BOOKS FOR AFRICA’S DEVELOPMENT”
                                                               By WINZ Staff Writer

A bird doesn’t sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song”, said Dr. Maya Angelou (pictured), the great American poet, historian, educator, best selling author, actress, civil rights activist, popularly described as ‘a global Renaissance woman’.
This is the same quote that opened Talent Nyathi’s presentation titled ‘Flying On The Wings of My Soul’ which had its basis on the African rural child and the village library project in particular.
In the rural areas, she said, a child braves the cold weather and long distance to get to a school where there is only one book that has to be shared among five to ten pupils. In this situation, a child flies on the wings of its soul to rise above the conditions because it has a ‘song’.
Books, as revealed in Nyathi’s village library project which she undertook sometime ago in Gokwe, are a means of survival for rural people and bring hope to a rural child.
She said there are many cattle farmers who benefited from the village library system because of the valuable information and education they got from the books about cattle farming.
The act of giving hope to the children by giving them books was echoed by Themba Malapila in his paper “African Librarianship in the 21st Century”.
Malapila, who is the Deputy Librarian at the College of Health Sciences (University of Zimbabwe), said, “For many children in Africa, the gift of books is truly a gift of hope”.
A book, when given to a child, generates a smile on the face of the child. Drawing from his experience at the University of Zimbabwe, Malapila noted the impact of the Internet upon the library in the 21st century.
The Internet, said Malapila, has bred an informed generation, sometimes called the ‘Google generation’, and has also brought about digital literacy. He urged book stakeholders to take advantage of the positive impact of the Internet.
Issues tackling book policy were also discussed.
Mukesh Kumar, First Secretary (HOC) at the Embassy of India, urged stakeholders in the local book industry to come up with a sound book policy. Such a policy would motivate local publishers to invest in new technology.
The Zimbabwean book industry has to be competitive and engage in joint ventures, he said while presenting his paper “International Perspectives on Zimbabwean Publishing”.
The aims of book policy include fostering modernisation of bookshops and strategic measures to encourage export, stimulating literary creation, and creating fiscal and financial environment favourable to publishers and writers, said another presenter Kay Shiri who lectures in the Faculty of Communication and Information Science at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST).
In his paper “Book Policy: The Key to Development”, Shiri said the state, book development councils, publishers, writers, associations and booksellers and communities are stakeholders  in book policy.
Well known motivational speaker, author and founder of Innov8 Books, Milton Kamwendo, gave an account of the transition of the book industry from the colonial era to date.
The period 1960 to 1980 witnessed the rise of the Shona novel but something happened also, he said. And this was the rise of black executives, and with this rise, came a change of reading tastes.
The arrival of the Internet, political and corporate changes brought further challenges for the publishing industry, noted Kamwendo in his presentation  "Books As An Instrument To Spur Development".
Kamwendo, a published motivational author and bookseller, stood by Zimbabwean young writers of motivational works whom he said are being sometimes shunned by the mainstream publishing houses. These new authors, he said, end up resorting to self-publishing, a venture that needs capital that they sometimes do not have.
A paper that seemed but was not  far removed from books was Dr. Orseline Carelse’s “Herbs, Nutrition, and Health”. As writers, we are natural human beings, and therefore our bodies also need natural care.
Dr. Orseline Carelse provided an insight into the significance of some herbs and medicinal weeds.
The issue of “HIV and Stigma” was then handled by Dr. Emma Phiri, who implored the media and creative writers not to sensationalise AIDS as this fuels stigma.
“The role of writers is to provide correct and accurate information, platforms for the marginalised and to humanise and normalise HIV,” she said.
Dr. Phiri discouraged the use of pictures that depict death and said writers can come up with stories of hope.
How much cultural diversity contributes to peace and harmony was demonstrated in Dr Angelina Kamba’s paper “Cultural Diversity, a Creative Force for Development”.
Peace and harmony can be fostered by cultural tolerance and diversity, she said.
She also said Africa is known for its ‘short memory of hate’ and this must be captured in books by African writers.
Dr Kamba also said that the school is the right place to mould life-long attitudes of diversity.
Art, she said can be effectively used to address issues of social justice and she encouraged writers to highlight cultural diversity in order to contribute to peace and harmony.

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