13th Ghana International Book Fair

I did go to the 13th GIBF (Ghana International Book Fair) but I admit it was on the last day – Saturday 7 November.  So if I sound a bit disappointed, maybe that is the reason.  Several of the stands had no one there so I guess the companies/organizations felt it wasn’t worth their while to be there on a Saturday.  I did notice several representatives of mostly Indian printing companies which was quite interesting.

The other issue which slightly bothered me was the fact that there was going to be a launch of a book about Ghana’s President in the late 1970s/early 1980s, Dr Hilla Limann, which I hadn’t heard about!  So I had to make do with online reviews.  And eventually I will see, and probably buy,  a copy of the actual book.

I admit I had originally thought I would be able to attend earlier in the week, but that didn’t work out.

This is not to say that I didn’t buy anything; I did.  A couple of children’s books as gifts and a couple of adult books for work – all from Sub-Saharan Publishers who I am always happy to support, plus I usually find they have something which interests me.

Caine prize 2015 front cover 500I am looking forward to seeing and buying a copy of the latest Caine Prize collection of short stories which Sub-Saharan are co-publishing with New Internationalist, and other publishers on the African continent.

I always wonder how many people go to these Ghana International Book Fairs…

Manu Herbstein describes Accra’s literary scene

This is just a quick post to alert readers of Ghanaian/South African Manu Herbstein’s article on Accra’s literary scene, currently posted on the South African BooksLive website.

I have to admit to admit that Herbstein captures events which I certainly attended – and may even have mentioned in this blog. He also describes many I had  heard about but didn’t manage to go to, in addition to several others I didn’t know about at all.

Definitely a worthwhile summary of the last year here in Accra.

A belated look at September 2012 book related activities

During September, I read – or more appropriately – finished reading six books:

  1. King Peggy – An American secretary, her royal destiny and the inspiring story of how she changed an African village, by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman [quite apt as it was about Ekumfi Otuam, the “hometown” of the late President of Ghana, Prof John Atta Mills]
  2. The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives, by Lola Shoneyin [a polygamous marriage has many secrets]
  3. Half-blood blues, by Esi Edugyan [read for Accra Book Club]
  4. Speechless – World history without words, by Polyp [graphic non-fiction; I confess I wasn’t always clear what was being depicted]
  5. Death and pain – Rawlings’ Ghana, the inside story, by Mike Adjei [aspects of Ghana’s history during the turbulent 1970s and 1980s]
  6. The bean trees, by Barbara Kingsolver [moving early novel by the well-known American author]

As is obvious by the titles above, there were more books with African/Ghanaian flavours/origins. Unusually for me there was an even mix between fiction and non-fiction.

In terms of bookish activities, it was a busy month, or rather the last ten days were very full. I had mentioned anticipating several activities in a previous post, and indeed I did go to all.

GAWBOFEST – Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival – did take place, and I did go. 21 September was a public holiday here in Ghana (Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday). But I didn’t stay long, bought a few books, and left, mainly because I wasn’t feeling very well, even though I had heard that the President, John Mahama, was coming to read from his recently published book, My first coup d’etat. I was very sorry to have missed that reading, but I was very happy that it took place in what was a relatively informal and non-political forum.

The next week, 25 – 29 September, was the 11th Ghana International Book Fair, held this year at the National Theatre. I went round the stands on a couple of days, and didn’t buy much, mainly because I had seen what I wanted at GAWBOFEST. But I was glad to attend the formal book launch of the Burt award 2011 books, and did buy the pack of three books:

  1. The kaya girl, by Mamle Wolo
  2. The lost royal treasure, by Ruby Yayra Goka
  3. Akosua & Osman, by Manu Herbstein

For an interesting and challenging perspective on the Book Fair and writing for children here in Ghana, see Mikelle on Education’s post.

Another entertaining reading took place at the Goethe Institut, where Nigerian author Chuma Nwokolo read excerpts from two of his books, as part of the Writers Project of Ghana Ghana Voices series:

  1. The ghost of Sani Abacha
  2. Diaries of a dead African

Nwokolo was entertaining and amusing, and the audience obliged with lots of questions and laughter, and of course we bought his books!

The rest of the week involved a regular monthly gathering of the Accra Book Club, plus a meeting of CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic & Research Libraries in Ghana)…

And not too surprisingly I did buy a few books: one gift, three books for work, and nine for myself! The TBR shelves continue to grow!

Upcoming literary and bookish events in Accra

The next ten days or so promises to be full of various bookish and literary events, which I am very much looking forward to.

  1. Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival (GAWBOFEST) takes place on Friday 21 September 2012 at the National Theatre, here in Accra – in theory from 08.00.  Realistically as it is a public holiday, probably from around 09.30 or so.  Lots of activities according to an advert but no real programme available online, at least as far as I can tell.  I shall go, at least briefly.
  2. 11th Ghana International Book Fair, which takes place from Monday 24th to Saturday 29th September, again at the National Theatre.  Book sales and exhibitions are of course the main part of this event, but there will be other parts, including meetings, and the formal launch of the Burt Award 2011 winning books.  For more details, see their website.  Always on my list of events to attend, and spend money at!
  3. Writers Project of Ghana monthly readings, on Wednesday 26 September, at the Goethe Institut, with Nigeria writer, Chuma Nwokolo.
  4. Accra Book Club’s monthly gathering, with a discussion of Esi Edugyan’s Half-blood blues, which I have nearly finished [having no electricity at home for nearly 48 hours definitely does not help my reading!]
  5. A biannual meeting of the Consortium of Academic & Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) at the end of next week – good to meet fellow librarians.

So I will definitely be busy, and if I get my act together, I should actually do some posting as well!

Recent books, libraries and information events

The last couple of weeks have been full of events related to books, reading, libraries and information, so
maybe I should take a bit of time to mention some of them.

The first two were what I would call “regulars”:

Ghana Voices, which part of the Writers Project of Ghana , featured prize-winning author Elizabeth-Irene Baitie reading from her latest novel for teens, The twelfth heart,  a boarding school based story. This was the evening that Accra suffered floods, so the audience wasn’t as large as expected, but Baitie is not only a good reader, but enthusiastic about both her writing, and her professional work. I already had a copy of the book, so at least I managed to get the author’s autograph, plus it has moved from a TBR shelf to my desk, which is definitely up on my priority list.

Accra Book Club had its monthly gathering, and this time the book was Ann Patchett’s widely acclaimed book,
State of wonder, which interesting enough I think we all read on Kindles! Although we were all somewhat critical of certain aspects of the book, that didn’t detract from its being a good choice for a book discussion. Our next discussion will be Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, so I’ve started that – again on my Kindle.

The last three are more work and professionally oriented:

One of the Africa representatives of Elsevier,  a large
publisher of STM (science, technology and medicine) books, journals and other materials, did a presentation
of several of their database products, including ScienceDirect and Scopus . It was obviously a sales pitch, but still interesting
nonetheless. And a good opportunity to meet three colleagues whom I hadn’t seen for a while. The only thing
which upset me was the fact that twenty-seven people had signed up to attend, but only ten actually came!

I also did a quick visit to the 10th Ghana International Book Fair, which took place at the Ghana
International Trade Fair. As I went in the afternoon, there were large numbers of schoolchildren in uniform
around – some looking at books, the odd ones reading some, and others just rejoycing in being at the Fair on
an officially sanctioned outing. I didn’t buy much – as most of the books available are either textbooks,
supporting material for basic education, or books for children. I did want some dictionaries but couldn’t
find the variety I was looking for. I wasn’t happy.

The last event was the Ghana Library Association Seminar and AGM – a one day event which alternates every
year with a two day Congress and AGM at which elections are held. This year’s event was held a bit earlier
than usual – to coincide with the GIBF – whose theme did include libraries, after all – and was held at the
Ghana International Trade Fair. Close to a hundred librarians from all over Ghana gathered to discuss the
future of libraries, and how our own association will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012. There was lots
of interaction between friends and colleagues, though as usual there were many issues left unresolved.

Now I have to catch up with work!

Visits to Ghana International Book Fair 2010

I did visit the Ghana International Book Fair 2010 at the Ghana Trade Fair site in Accra twice, but didn’t attend any of the related functions, so of course what I have to say is purely limited to the actual exhibition space, rather than any of the associated activities.

This year the venue of the GIBF shifted back to the Ghana Trade Fair  from the National Theatre where it has been held for the last several [I’m afraid I don’t remember how many] years.

I guess each venue has its advantages and disadvantages – and being on several floors at the National Theatre could definitely be considered a disadvantage, with some members of the public being unwilling to move upstairs.  Similarly some may have found it a bit of an effort to move out of the main exhibition space to where one exhibitor – EPP – usually had its space.  I guess also if there were a lot of visitors, then it could seem to be a bit crowded.

So, obviously one of the main advantages of the Trade Fair is that it is big, with plenty of space – but it seems to me to be almost be tooo much space.  Although stands were allocated, according to the Fair brochure, to companies, there were lots of empty spaces, and even on the last day, the venue could hardly be called crowded!

As there was no admission fee, I also wondered how the organisers were able to get a tally of numbers of visitors…

My other “beef” is with the attitude of some of the people working on the stands, and this is not just at the Book Fair, but other events at the Trade Fair.  I know that it is warm, and perhaps nothing much is going on, but to me “sleeping” while on duty is not really acceptable, and in my view reflects on the company an individual is supposed to be representing.  Of course exhibitors could make sure that those manning the stands run shifts, rather than “working” a 12-hour day?

I didn’t buy many books, but then that is not too surprising, as the orientation of the Fair was very much towards child literacy.  Nevertheless, I look forward to the next one!

9th Ghana International Book Fair 2010 launched in Accra

I went to the official launch of the 9th Ghana International Book Fair 2010 at the GNAT Hall in Accra (on 22 June 2010).  Although it was a relatively short function – less than an hour and a half – and started only half an hour late, it was in my opinion very much in the traditional mode.

There was an audience of maybe 100 to 150, of whom at least half were basic school students in uniform.  There were about ten people sitting on the dais, which at the GNAT Hall is quite high up.  There was also a banner behind the speakers.  As usual those giving the speeches did not address any parts of their speeches to the children present, apart from asking the group from the Osu Children’s Library Fund to come and do a couple of short traditional dances.

Of course one of the major stories online quoted the Deputy Minister of Education, Elizabeth Amoah-Tetteh, MP and the representative from the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, Peter Achiaa, and totally ignored comments/speeches made by either the Chairman, who is the owner of SEDCO, a major representative of Pearson books here in Ghana, or that of the Ghana Book Publishers Association President. That of course is typical reporting for many local Ghanaian journalists, especially those working for the state newspapers and/or the Ghana News Agency.

Admittedly the coverage in the Ghanaian Times newspaper, which is actually a media partner/sponsor of the Fair, was a little better, and actually talked about what the Fair was about.  Plus there was a photo, which always helps.  But interestingly enough the headline in this article rather focussed on the revitalisation of the Ghana Library Board rather than the launch of the Book Fair.

In neither case was there was a  reference to a relevant website, and though posters for the fair were distributed to all present (see above), the brochures for the Fair lacked basic information such contact details, whether phone, fax, email or web.  At least the official website for the Ghana International Book Fair does indicate the dates of 2-6 November 2010, and there are contact details, but how would someone find this site?