African, Arab publishers take center stage

Elena Pasoli, Bologna’s program director, stressed that this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair will have more exhibitors than ever before from more countries around the world, although some publishers are reluctant to travel due to the potential Covid-19 outbreak, 19 The resurgence and the Ukrainian war, this is by no means a “small” fair. “We hope it will have the excitement and energy it has always had,” she said, noting that the show will have exhibitors from 85 countries. Among English-speaking countries, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have collective stands. “There are more publishers from Latin America than we initially expected,” Pasoli added, “while in Asia we have publishers from Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan.”

One unlikely country to have a representative in Bologna is China. The Shanghai Children’s International Book Fair, which started in November 2021, was rescheduled this year to overlap with Bologna, but has since been rescheduled to take place from July 22 to 24. Russia’s state collective stand was also banned from the show following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, although Pasoli said Bologna would welcome independent Russian publishers — those not affiliated with the government — if they were able to travel. To help and support Ukrainian publishers, the fair will offer an exhibition focusing on Ukrainian books with titles selected from books submitted for the Bologna Ragazzi Prize over the past few years. International publishers participating in the show were also asked to bring Ukrainian books translated and published in their home countries.

This year’s guest of honor is the United Arab Emirates in Sharjah. Sharjah, the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2019-2020, was scheduled to participate in the fair in 2020, but has since been cancelled. More than 30 Arabic writers, illustrators, artists and storytellers will be featured in a series of events, including two exhibitions: one on Arabic publishing and illustration, titled Insight, Reflect, and another from Book competition for the Etisalat Arab Children’s Literature Prize.

A special programme will also focus on African books and publications for the first time in Bologna. “The initiative grew out of the passion of Bodour al Quasimi of the International Publishers Association, who provided assistance and sponsorship from the African Publishing Innovation Fund,” Pasoli said. A dedicated exhibition area will host publishing professionals from a number of countries, including Benin, Ethiopia, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. “We are especially excited to publish books in Indigenous languages ​​and discuss how children’s publishing can play an important role in helping preserve Indigenous languages,” Pasoli added.

Swaady Martin of the Loving Kindness Boma in Côte d’Ivoire said in an interview, “The situation in Africa’s publishing industry is as diverse as the number of countries on the continent. Cultural differences in religion, language and customs, societies, etc. – Economic development, literacy, infrastructure, and relations with former colonizers present different challenges and opportunities. For example, 9 of the countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world are in Africa (the lowest literacy rate is in Chad: 22%) , but some of the highest literacy rates in the world are also in Africa (Seychelles, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa ~95%). While Equatorial Guinea and South Africa have similar literacy rates, access to books in these two markets is Very different. While South Africa has the most developed book distribution network in Africa, Equatorial Guinea has almost no book distribution network.”

Sandra Tamele, founder and editor of Editora Trinta Zero Nove in Mozambique, who participated in the program, said in an interview: “In the past two years, we have seen the emergence of young independent publishers such as ETZN who are eager to participate” with the digital age , making books more affordable and attractive, bringing them closer to the homes of potential readers. Children and young adults make up the vast majority of these readers. “

The entire Spotlight on Africa programme can be seen here.

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