The World Book and Copyright Day was marked in Nairobi with players renewing calls for an end to piracy to boost the growth of the books industry.
Authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers and library managers who attended a dinner event noted that piracy has discouraged authors from writing more books.
They lamented that pirated content and products has flooded the market with poor quality books and has resulted in loss of employment for most professionals of the book publishing industry.
The event was the culmination of a four-day inaugural MOTO Books and Arts Festival at the Village Market, Nairobi. It brought together local and international artists to showcase their literary works and discuss emerging literary trends in Africa.
During the Festival Kenyans were treated to a packed four-day programme of literary events aimed to re-igniting interest in books, reading and enhancing the impact arts and literature in the country.
Themed Firing up African Literature, the Festival was organised to correspond with the World Book and Copyright Day marked in more than 100 countries to celebrate books and reading as a culture. The Day was designated by UNESCO on April 23rd 1995 and is aimed at encouraging children and young people to read for pleasure.
World acclaimed Ghanaian writer and blogger Nana Darkoa Sekyia graced the event. Nana has authored the bestselling book, The Sex Lives of African Women.
The climax of the festival was the literature stakeholders’ dinner that coincided with World Book and Copyright Day. The focus of the dinner was how to monetize African Literature and will include of several books authored by Kenyans.
Mercy Kibira, the Curator of MOTO Books and Arts Festival commented: “Key industry players, thought leaders and government representatives came together to deliberate on possible ways to to monetize African literature in the emerging world that has become a global village. We are honoured to have invaluable partners who are committed to a reading culture and enhancing the impact of books and arts in Kenya.”
Among the books launched at the event was A Son of A Nile, an Inspiring Journey – a bold, eclectic and interesting anthology of prose by Teddy Warria, examining his genealogy and giving it purpose.
Teddy is an African entrepreneur, author, and youth advocate. He is passionate about innovation and human development and works with the youth of Africa and the world as a founding president and CEO of Africa 2.0 in Kenya.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for authors and other literary artists to dissect the trends and impacts of their works on socio-cultural development in the society. African Literature must play its rightful role not only as a hero but also a formidable force in the continent’s development,” says Teddy Warria.
Earlier in the day, a community initiative dubbed Adopt-A-Library was launched in Nairobi’s Kibera slums to boost literary levels and alleviate poverty in marginalised areas. During the launch, more than 18,000 books were distributed to 30 community libraries in marginalised areas.
The initiative has seen several publishing houses, authors and the general public adopt 30 libraries across the country by donating books to bridge the literacy gap among school children, the youth and adults from the poor resource areas. A library in Kibera has been identified for Nana, the guest of honor, to adopt during her visit.
Maktabas CEO Gerald Mbugua says: “We are participating in the MOTO Books and Arts Festival as a strategic partner to advance literacy levels in the marginalized areas by stocking libraries and fostering strategic partnerships that will grow our impact on communities.”
The Festival also included a literary master class hosted by local authors, and exhibitions that will provide top publishing brands and authors the opportunity to showcase outstanding books, arts and culture. The exhibitors have been be drawn from publishing houses, bookshops, licensing and intellectual rights agencies, learning institutions, Illustrators and editors, authors, online content creators and media houses.
The World Book and Copyright Day was initiated by UNESCO on 23rd April 1995 as a worldwide celebration of books and reading and is marked in more than 100 countries around the globe.
The 2022 MOTO Books and Arts Festival is organised in collaboration with Half Priced Books Limited, Village Market, Columbia Global Centres, Story Moja, Maktabas, Solkids and Trademark Hotel among other sponsors.
It is aimed at boosting the impact of African literature in the society by encouraging children and young people to read for pleasure through its work with authors, illustrators, publishers, bookshops and libraries.
Village Market Business Development Manager, Damar Padwa, commented: “We are honoured to be the host for this important festival that will go a long way in boosting the growth of literature and love of books in Kenya. With education being one of our social responsibility pillars, we will continue to be part of initiatives aimed at enhancing the reading culture among children and the youth. African Literature has become a cornerstone of the global literature, it is time to support local authors become the best they can ever be.”
There has been tremendous growth in African literature in recent years with many writers from the continent dominating global literary awards.
The Nobel Literature Prize used to be dominated mainly by Westerners in its 120-year existence. Of the 118 literature laureates since the first Nobel was awarded in 1901, 95 – or more than 80% – have been Europeans or North Americans.
Some of the world’s biggest literary awards, including the Nobel, Booker and Goncourt, have gone to Africans in 2021 in a sign of the continent’s emergence as a major force in literature.
They include Tanzania’s Abdulrazak Gurnah becoming a Nobel laureate, South Africa’s Damon Galgut winning Britain’s Booker Prize and 31-year-old Senegalese Mohamed Mbougar Sarr becoming the first writer from Sub-Saharan Africa to win France’s top literary award, the Prix Goncourt.
Senegalese writers also won the International Booker (David Diop) and Prix Neustadt (Boubacar Boris Diop) while Portugal’s Prix Camoes went to Paulina Chiziane of Mozambique.
African literature had a previous heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, though it was tied up with politics and decolonisation, embodied by figures like Senegal’s poet/president Leopold Sedar Senghor.
Others who advanced African Literature include Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwrights and novelists, Okot p’Bitek celebrated writer from Uganda, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Kenyan writers and academics to mention a few.
Today, the themes are much broader and writers less concerned with how they are viewed by outsiders.