African and Arab publishers take center stage

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Elena Pasoli, Bologna Program Director, points out that this year the Bologna Children’s Book Fair will see more exhibitors than ever from more countries around the world, despite the reluctance of some publishers. to travel due to the potential for a Covid-19 resurgence and the war in Ukraine, this is by no means a ‘small’ fair. “We expect it to have the excitement and energy that it always has,” she said, noting that the fair will welcome exhibitors from 85 countries. Among English-speaking countries, Australia, Canada and New Zealand will all have collective positions. “There are more publishers coming from Latin America than we initially anticipated,” Pasoli adds, “and from Asia, we have publishers from Indonesia, Korea and Taiwan.”

A country that is unlikely to have representatives in Bologna is China. The Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair moved from November 2021 and was postponed to overlap with Bologna this year, but it has since been postponed again to July 22-24. Russia’s national collective stand was also banned from the fair following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, although Pasoli says Bologna will welcome independent Russian publishers – those not affiliated with the government – if they are able to travel. In order to help and support Ukrainian publishers, the fair offers an exhibition centered on Ukrainian books, with titles chosen from those submitted to the BolognaRagazzi Award in recent years. International publishers present at the fair were also invited to bring Ukrainian books translated and published in their own country.

The guest of honor this year is the United Arab Emirate of Sharjah. Sharjah was the UNESCO World Book Capital 2019-2020 and was originally scheduled to take part in the fair in 2020, before it was cancelled. More than 30 Arab writers, illustrators, artists and storytellers will be showcased in a series of events, including two exhibitions: one showcasing Arabic publishing and illustration titled Insight, Reflect, and a second showcasing books from the competition Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature.

A special program will also focus, for the first time in Bologna, exclusively on books and publishing from Africa. “The program was born out of the passion of Bodour al Quasimi of the International Publishers Association, who offered assistance and sponsorship from the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund,” Pasoli said. A dedicated exhibition space will welcome publishing professionals from several 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 showcase books in Indigenous languages ​​and discuss how children’s publishing is making a huge contribution to the preservation of Indigenous languages,” Pasoli adds.

Swaady Martin, of Loving Kindness BomaIvory Coast, said in an interview, “The state of the publishing industry in Africa is as diverse as the number of countries on the continent. Cultural differences in religion, language and customs, socio-economic development, literacy, infrastructure and relationship with the former colonizer create different sets of For example, 9 of the least literate countries in the world are in Africa (Chad is the least literate: 22%), but some of the most literate countries in the world are also found in Africa (Seychelles, Equatorial Guinea, Africa ~95%). While Equatorial Guinea and South Africa have similar high literacy rates, access to books in these two markets is very different. So South Africa has the most developed book distribution network in Africa, there is almost no book distribution network in Africa. Equatorial Guinea.”

Sandra Tamele, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Editora Trinta Zero Nove, Mozambique, which participates in the program, said in an interview: “Over the past two years, we have seen the emergence of young independent publishers, like ETZN, eager to engage with the digital age and make books more affordable and engaging, bringing them closer to the homes of potential readers. And children and young adults make up the vast majority of those readers.

The entire “Spotlight on Africa” program can be seen here.

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