Booksellers, Librarians Celebrate African Literature at ZIBF'95

By Mitchell-Powell, Brenda | American Libraries, October 1995 | Go to article overview

Booksellers, Librarians Celebrate African Literature at ZIBF'95


Mitchell-Powell, Brenda, American Libraries


More than 200 exhibitors representing some 400 publishers assembled in the capital city of Harare July 28-Aug. 5 for the 12th annual Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF).

ZIBF'95, the premier publishing-trade rights event on the African subcontinent and a collective celebration of African writing and culture, also marked the fifth anniversary of the Zimbabwe international Book Fair Trust (ZIBFT), which currently administers and sponsors the fair.

According to Trish Mbanga, executive director of Harare-based ZIBFT, onsite registration of librarians and teachers brought trade attendance to 6,000. As in previous years, attendees from Zimbabwe, South Africa, and the United Kingdom dominated the crowd. Delegations from Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia, however, also made strong showings. Francophone stalwarts from Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire were joined by newcomers from Mali, Morocco, Barbados, Puerto Rico, and Aruba. Angola and Mozambique ably represented Lusophone Africa. The visiting public raised total attendance to 29,800.

The theme of ZIBF'95 was "Human Rights and Justice," a subject addressed in numerous seminars, workshops, and exhibits. A July 28-29 Indaba ("important meeting" in SiNdebele, one of the indigenous Zimbabwean languages) devoted to "Freedom of Expression" explored individual and collective rights in social and political contexts. The legal and economic implications of free speech for writers, publishers, and the media also were analyzed. A four-day Writer's Workshop, July 31-Aug. 3, explored the standards, policies, and institutions of journalism; the relationship between journalism and the state; and the opportunities and pitfalls for writers in local and global contexts. Participating luminaries included Nobel laureates Wole Soyinka and Nadine Gordimer, as well as Jack Mapanje, Yvonne Vera, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Ninotchka Rosca,and Adewale Jaja-Pearce.

"Human Rights and Justice" provided ironic and unanticipated controversy when Gordimer exposed the decision of the ZIBF trustees to rescind their acceptance of an exhibition application by Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). The trustees bowed to pressure from the Zimbabwean Ministry of Information, Posts, and Telecommunications, which threatened to withdraw financial support if homosexual literature were displayed at the fair. Indaba delegates then mounted a volley of queries and reprimands that concluded with the passage of a resolution urging the withdrawal of the trustees' "contravention of freedom of expression." The majority of ZIBF trustees remained unmoved, though four resigned in protest. Ongoing international criticism threatens the viability of ZIBF, with publishers reconsidering their participation in the event next year.

In addition to perusing materials offered by long-standing academic publishers, librarians enjoyed invaluable collective displays from the Heinemann Publishers African Writers Pavilion, the United Nations Pavilion, the African Periodicals Exhibit (APEX), and the African Publishers' Network (APNET). APNET, a Harare-based service and training organization of more than 850 publishers representing 21 countries and the major linguistic areas of Africa, also sponsored three seminars on "the practical aspects of social rights ... to appropriate books at affordable prices." "Library Acquisition of African Books," the third session, assembled African and European library professionals to review and establish guidelines for information access and collection development.

An instructive, day-long seminar on information retrieval and dissemination titled "Africa Online and On Disc: What? How? Where? " sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provided similar special interest for visiting librarians.

Abundant products, limited options

The relative abundance of products, however, belies librarians' options. …

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