Bookeish! South Africa’s first international
Graeme Bloch is the Director of Bookeish!, the South African International
Festival of Books. PO Box 2873, Saxonwold 2132, South Africa. +27 11
280 5017 (tel), email: email@example.com
A national initiative to promote a culture of
reading among South Africans, called Bookeish! was launched in Cape
Town on August 20, 2002. The launch will culminate in an international
book festival, the first in the country’s history, in February
This major exhibition for the global book trade
is designed to bring together top local and international writers of
adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction with some of the
world’s heavyweight publishers, authors’ agents and book
media. The four-day event will provide the platform for the international
unveiling of a significant number of new book titles from all over the
world and will also be open to the public. The festival is expected
to draw a significant contingent of international visitors to the city.
A range of activities to run alongside the festival
includes street parades, musical and library events, as well as performances
involving community and school groups. These will take place in and
around Cape Town including the V&A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch, the
Baxter Theatre and Spier near Stellenbosch.
Although the festival hopes to make its mark on
the international book calendar in the way that the renowned annual
book events of Frankfurt and London have succeeded in doing, it will
have a distinctly local flavour. Nevertheless, it will draw substantially
on the expertise of international luminaries such as film director Lord
Richard Attenborough, actor and writer Sir Anthony Sher and British
Minister for Africa Baroness Valerie Amos. They have all undertaken
to serve on the advisory council for the initiative.
The book festival will be preceded by an 18-month
long programme of book-related events in the country’s major centres
to focus on the value of recreational reading, targeted at all ages,
stages and income groups.
The second part of the name Bookeish! comes from
the township term for positive surprise or exclamation (‘eish’
means ‘wow’). The name emphasizes the aim to make books
relevant and accessible to a wide range of people.
This is not a literacy drive but one that invites South Africans to
acquire the pleasures and benefits of recreational reading in whatever
areas excite their interest.
It also provides an excellent platform from which
to showcase South Africa’s story-telling talents in a world-class
way. While local writers such as Nadine Gordimer, André P Brink,
Zeke Mphahlele and Gcina Mhlope all enjoy international prominence,
they are known to only a relatively small number of South Africans.
We want to change that. At the same time there are countless other novelists,
poets and essayists who are yet to be discovered in their home country
Our primary focus is to grow a reading public
and assert that books are a crucial part of the country’s future.
But we are addressing all communities, from grassroots level to those
from the highest-income groups.
Seed funding for the multi-million rand initiative
has been provided by an American-Irish NGO, Atlantic Philanthropy. The
Ford Foundation has also indicated a willingness to become involved,
while the British Council will co-present cultural events that enhance
a UK/SA collaboration and exchange. In addition, the local publishing
fraternity has donated funds and several booksellers will provide promotional
support. Bookeish! is in the process of securing funding from other
sources, including the private and public sectors.
The scale of the initiative will obviously be
determined by the extent of funding obtained but the first project will
be to highlight the books on the Africa’s 100 Best Books list
published in 2002 by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair.
Plans include festivals in Cape Town and Johannesburg for films, dance/drama
in the Eastern Cape and a Latin American writers’ festival.
Bookeish! also intends to collaborate with South
African publishing and educational NGO, READ, the Klein Karoo Nasionale
Kunstefees, and several government departments.
Patrons-in-chief of Bookeish! are Albertina and Walter Sisulu. Other
patrons are Minister of Education Kader Asmal, Deputy Minister of Arts,
Culture, Science and Technology Brigitte Mabandla, novelist Nadine Gordimer
and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. [end] [BPN, no 31, 2002, p. 11.]
to table of contents for BPN Newsletter 31, 2002>>