How did Muna Kalati start ? – Conversation with the founder

Christian Elongué is a social entrepreneur of Cameroonian origin with an Afropolitan identity, working to promote education and African culture through Muna Kalati, a pan-African association bringing together parents, authors, publishers and other children’s book enthusiasts.

Passionate about reading since my early childhood, I devoured every week, nearly 6 books of about 200 pages each since the age of 11 years. I was introduced to reading through comic books such as Rodeo, Zembla, Kiwi, Tex, Blek le Roc, PICSOU, Mickey Mouse and other books from the Pink Library.

Through these readings and discoveries of foreign cultures, elsewhere seemed better, Paris rhymed with Paradise and I became impatient to get my BAC in order to go to France where I could see the snow and touch the Eiffel Tower…

Between the ages of 12 and 17, tired of comics, I began devouring Gérard de Villiers’ SAS, whose epic tales of espionage and sometimes erotica fired my libido.

Although SAS books were generally reserved for adults, I read my father’s because I couldn’t find any book that was stimulating enough to satisfy my intellectual curiosity. In less than three years, I had read nearly 186 SAS, sometimes reading in the classroom from my locker when the teacher’s back was turned, or at night when the parents imagined me asleep.

It was at university with the pan-African associative movements and my Master’s degree in « Africa and Globalization » that I discovered the rich African past and became aware of my cultural alienation. I knew more about the history of France, Great Britain and Belgium than that of Cameroon and I realized that the books of my childhood had largely contributed to it.

I realized that children’s and youth literature was a powerful tool for building the imagination and identity of young Africans, for reducing illegal immigration and low civic and patriotic awareness. But I realized with regret that African children’s books were little known and accessible. The authors of books for adults were more publicized, celebrated and promoted than those of children’s literature, which was considered a marginal field, a ghetto or a sector of little interest reserved for amateur authors.

Revolted by this lack of interest and the absence of media specializing in the promotion of African books or Afro-descendants, I began a scientific study of 4 years to establish an inventory of African children’s literature. A book published in 2019 by L’Harmattan gathers the main findings and the Muna Kalati Association is the practical dimension.

Today, 4 years after its creation, Muna Kalati federates a large network of authors, parents, publishers and lovers of children’s literature who exchange best practices and collaborate for a better visibility and access to books with diverse and culturally relevant contents for young people. We organize the « Lecture Plaisir » workshops to introduce children to reading through theatre, debate, slam and support reading projects on the continent.

To date, we remain one of the few digital companies specializing in the support and promotion of authors, publishers and actors in the field of youth books. Our ambition is to see more African children reading diverse and rich cultural contents for the construction of a pan-African identity; and to see more African countries adopting a national policy on children’s books. If you are an author, publisher or parent, our platform offers you children’s book recommendations, news and collaboration opportunities across Africa and the world.

The original french version of this interview was published here.

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