Magazine article New African

The African Future of the Book

Magazine article New African

The African Future of the Book

Article excerpt

When I got the brief for this issue and thought of this piece, I was going to write positively about the future of the African arts in the next 50 years. I was going to talk about how Shakespeare is a major part of the English identity; how Michelangelo Da Vinci are a major part of Italy as a nation; how Americans managed to become successful neocolonialists the world over because of Hollywood, Motown, Broadway, and even Andy Warhol. I was going to talk of how artists are any nation's best ambassadors worldwide, more so than those men and women paid by foreign office departments. I was going to say all this. And request that for Africa to become a worthy player on the global stage in the next 50 years, its billionaire philanthropists should consider massive investment in the arts industry. Then I decided I would not.

Oliver Mtukudzi, Sauti Sol, Angelique Kidjo, P-Square and that guy who got this continent dancing the Azonto almost as much as Psy got the rest of the world dancing Gangnam Style are doing pretty well for music.

Our billionaire philanthropists will do anything to get a photo opportunity with Mandela but would rather invest in buying buffalos AND THEN complain when Hollywood decides to get a British actor to play Mandela in the Long Walk to Freedom biopic. So, films with talented directors and actors may have to go begging to the East or West in the next 50 years since home is not the best place for investment.

I do not know as much as I should about theatre or visual arts so instead, this became a story about the African future of the book. Because that is what I know.

True story: Cape Town. OpenForwn 2012. Sure. Not quite the best representative of an African city but it certainly has a good collection of the African brains and some of its movers and shakers. It is here where I sit with two publishers from South Africa and Nigeria. They are discussing and making a tentative plan to do things differently in marketing their writers--look at the other 563 countries as possible markets. "What we would do is that you would send me your list annually and I would do the same and we could decide which books resonate with each of our audiences," says B. There is an enthusiastic nod from J. They exchange phone numbers, email addresses and Skype identities. Later at the same forum, a Kenyan writer says to me, "We are stuck with the same stories. No-one is writing about *@!* on this continent" I look at him with raised eyebrows and respond, "perhaps you are not reading enough books FROM this continent. …

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