Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

26 July 2011


By WINZ Staff Writer

Deputy Minister of Education, Sport, Art and Culture, Dr Lazarus Dokora
(Photo: Zimbojam)

Professor Helge Ronning

The 2011 edition of the ZIBF Indaba conference kicked off on an interactive pace yesterday July 25 at the Crowne Plaza Monomotapa Hotel, Harare.
The Deputy Minister of Education, Sport, Art and Culture, Honourable Dr Lazarus Dokora officially opened the Indaba while Professor Helge Ronning provided the keynote presentation.
The two-day Indaba conference precedes book exhibitions and other Book Fair events and is running under the theme “Books for Africa’s Development”.
In his address Deputy Minister Dokora challenged Indaba participants to think about the future of the book in the age of ICT.
Citing Zimbabwe’s literacy rate as among the highest in Africa, he said the country is indeed blessed with a reading culture that is imbedded in the people.
He told participants that government is committed to promoting local languages, with the latest development being the mainstreaming of Tonga language into Grade Seven examinations, starting this year.
The issue of book policy came under spotlight as writers such as Virginia Phiri asked the Deputy Minister about what happened to the draft policy of 1997. The Minister assured that he would be happy to receive an updated draft from stakeholders, saying so much have happened in the book industry that may need capturing now in the new policy.
In his keynote presentation which he interweaved with profound ‘quotables’, Prof Ronning said that the African continent’s main means of sustaining book culture lies in literacy.
“Literacy is the basis for a vibrant book culture,” he said, adding that yet African publishers find it difficult to operate on a limited capital base and in the absence of an effective book policy.
In Norway, he said, the government, working with the National Arts Council in that country, embarked on a book purchasing program that saw public libraries flourishing in the provision of essential information.
When award-winning writer Ignatius Mabasa questioned if this could be applied to Zimbabwe to foster book development, Prof Ronning said historical experiences are different in every country but the idea is worth the salt.
The now non-existent Literature Bureau used to have programs and workshops to boost the book culture.
But Zimbabwe nipped the Literature Bureau in the bud in the late 90’s, leaving book development programs orphaned and in the hands of a few non-governmental literary organisations some of which have folded due to donor exit.
In this open, free and lively discussion, Deputy Minister Dokora’s fear for the future of the book were allayed by a young writer who told him and the participants that the book is here to stay and will stay, despite challenges being posed by the internet.
Representatives of organisations that have supported the re-emergence of the ZIBF also had a few words each supportive of the ZIBF during the opening ceremony.
These organisations which include British Council, Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust and the Embassy of Norway, pledged their continued support to restore faith in the ZIBF.
On this first day of the Indaba, about eight presenters spoke on different issues revolving around the book, culture and other diverse topics. The Indaba continues today July 26 at the same venue. Issues to be discussed today include technology for the challenged, copyright and piracy, and information technology.

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