Walter Bgoya guest of Jozi Book Fair 2013

The Jozi Book Fair 2013 Guest of the Fair is Walter Bgoya, the Tanzanian-born publisher, children’s author and human rights activist.

When mentioning books governments think textbooks. Education must be a priority. But not to the detriment of book professionals, who encourage reading. - These words were uttered by Walter Bgoya, expressing his frustration with the Tanzanian government's support for books and publishing.

Born on 29 December 1942, Bgoya has been a stalwart in promoting African publishing; and is a fierce proponent of developing all genres of books, and publishing these in indigenous African languages. Bgoya also writes for children.

Influences

Under the guidance of the newly independent Tanzania, Bgoya went to study in the United States. The young Walter participated in many struggles in the US, against racial discrimination. When he returned he was active in the ruling party’s, Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), Study Groups. He was also active in supporting the anti-colonial struggles in Mozambique, Angola and Mozambique; and against apartheid. Between 1966 -1971 Walter worked in the Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the Organisation of Africa Unity, and was a delegate to the United Nations. He also worked in diplomatic missions in the People’s Republic of China, North Vietnam and North Korea. In 1971 he was part of the UN Human Rights team investigating the Apartheid South African state’s aggression towards states in Southern Africa.

 

Publishing

From 1972 to 1990 Bgoya directed the Tanzania Publishing House (TPH), which promoted Dar es Salaam as a progressive centre for intellectuals internationally. The TPH publications included Walter Rodney’s “How Mozambique Europe Underdeveloped Africa”,Agostinho Neto's "Sacred Hope”,Samora Machel's “Establishing People’s Power to Serve the Masses,” and Issa Shivji’s “Class Struggle in Tanzania”. In 1991 Bgoya founded Mkuki na Nyota, an independent book publishing company based in Dar es Salaam. Bgoya said, in response to the general absence of independent scholarly publishing in Tanzania: “We are proud to publish relevant, beautiful, and affordable books, and place them in the hands of passionate readers in Tanzania and around the world.” Mkuki na Nyota books, children’s books, trade books and educational books, in both English and Kiswahili. This publisher actively translates literature into Kiswahili, including books like The Little Prince from the original French. Bgoya is a founding member of the African Books Collective, a collective owned and governed by African publishers. Mkuki na Nyota also works with NGOs to promote reading and education in Tanzania. Bgoya is a also a founding member of the African Publishers Network and is Chairperson of the jury for the prestigious NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa. Walter Bgoya has delivered numerous papers on the themes of reading, writing, publishing and the quest for an authentic African voice in the literary world. In a paper “We think it is time to bring the debate to where it belongs: to the book as a weapon of liberation, to literature as the soul of the people, and people as the objective of development. It should, therefore, matter what is published; and it should matter that resources are brought back to the dreamers, so that they too are heard. Those who build castles in the air should also be listened to, for as a Spanish saying goes, ‘If you cannot even build a castle in the air you certainly cannot build it on the ground’.”

Bgoya at Jozi Book Fair which runs on October 25-26 at Museum Africa.

Walter will share his insights at various events of the JBF, including:

Seminar at UJ on Africa's intellectual revival: The thought of Julius Nyerere. Time & Date to be confirmed.

Bgoya will deliver the Key Note address at the JBF Conference on the Role of Libraries, highlighting folktales, archives, memory, and struggles in Africa.

Bgoya will participate in a number of activities at the Fair.

Children’s programme, round-table discussions and conversations on publishing, writing for children and promoting indigenous languages.

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