By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha
Harare, Zimbabwe – In spite of the reality of a hyper-connected world, where the internet and mobile are increasingly becoming the dominant means of communication, books continue to hold a special place in the human psyche.
Books do for people what movies, television, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and social media will never do – fundamentally alter their worldview and inspire them to greatness. The power of reading books is that they can up whole new worlds and inspire a change of perspective. Books don’t break down. They are very portable, and you don’t need a battery or outlet to read them.
In Zimbabwe, as in many places around the globe, books are still held in special regard. The ability to read is collectively seen as a key skill and people are encouraged to acquire the skill at an early age. Throughout the years, the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF), Zimbabwe’s premier book showcase, has become the most critical space for the celebration of books in the country.
The week-long literary showcase continues to venerate books in an era where reading seems increasingly elusive due to hyper-connection. According to the ZIBF’s Executive Director, Greenfield Chilongo, the fair aims to guard, uphold and restore the reading culture in generations to come through hosting a number of book-themed activities.
From its beginnings in 1983, the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) is one the leading book fairs in Zimbabwe with renown regionally and globally. The fair is held annually during the last week July in the beautiful sculpture gardens in Harare’s CBD.
The green and serene gardens are transformed into a park of books with exhibitors from different parts of the world showcasing their book wares. This year’s ZIBF, officially opened by Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart, saw an increase in the number of foreign publishers exhibiting as compared to previous years.
To mark the beginning of the 21st century, and encouraged by internationally acclaimed academic, Professor Ali Mazrui, the ZIBF launched the international compilation of “Africa’s 100 Best Books.”
This project was organized in collaboration with the African Publishers Network (APNET), the Pan-African Booksellers Association (PABA), African writers’ associations, book development councils, and library associations.
Over the years, the ZIBF has also highlighted book industries in specific countries around the continent. Each year, the ZIBF is dedicated to showcasing a particular country.
However, in recent years the ZIBF has experienced a downward trend. South Africa’s Cape Town Book Fair which runs in close proximity to ZIBF has also proved to be a major competitor.
In addition, Zimbabwe’s downward economic spiral has also proved to be a major challenge but in spite of these negatives, the ZIBF has soldiered on. In other words, ZIBF has managed to overcome the challenges of the past few years in which the world recession has affected the donor community resulting in some traditional partners moving out. Traditionally, the event is supported by various embassies and international agencies operating in the country.
Books for Africa’s Development
THIS year’s Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) held from July 25 to 30, 2011 promises to mark the resuscitation of one of Africa’s leading book festivals. The fair held under the theme “Books for Africa’s Development”, was aimed at highlighting the impact of technology on writers.
The first two days were dedicated to six Indabas at which 18 local and international speakers addressed the gathering. The Indaba, which runs alongside the main book fair, is an annual conference that provides a platform for debating critical issues to the book industry in Africa. It is also a unique platform for networking and collaboration among the key players in the industry.
Events lined up included workshops on various literary aspects like writing short stories, poetry, textbook writing and film-making.