From the 29th August 2019 to 1st September 2019, Christian Elongué, founder of Muna Kalati, presented the work of the organisation during the 5th IBBY Africa Regional Meeting in Accra, Ghana. The theme of the Conference was on ‘The importance of Illustrations in Children’s books’.
The conference brought together local and international practitioners, supporters and champions of children’s literature from Gambia, Brazil, Uganda, Sierra Leone, China, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, and Rwanda such as Meshack Asare, Award-Winning Children’s Writer & Illustrator; Liz Page, Executive Secretary of IBBY International; Prof. Vivian Yenika Agbaw, Professor of Literature & Literacy at Penn State University (USA); Carole Bloch, Project Director for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) and Hayford Siaw the Director of Ghana Library Authority.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mr Shi Ting Wang, the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, urged parents to invest more in books for their children, saying it would better their lives in future. Accessible, affordable and high-quality children literature, play an effective role in bridging the cognitive gap between different cultures, increasing people to people exchange, safeguarding world peace and forging a common community with shared future for mankind. When children developed the habit of reading, it would build their abilities to explore and learn new things. Mr Shi said children’s literature in China had grown ten-fold since 2005, becoming a dynamic and promising sector in the publishing industry. For example, just in 2,000 about 12,000 children’s book were published in China, which had increased to 40,000 in 2015 due to outstanding performance of the publishers and children’s interest in reading.
“As China has grown into the second biggest economy in the world, children’s literature are attracting more and more attention of the world,” he noted. He commended Professor Esi Sutherland Addy for her contributions to education, literature, theatre and culture in the past decades.
In her address, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Hon. Cynthia Mamle Morrison said how pictures speak volumes especially for children and that words do not mean much to them. She added that pictures stick forever and being someone who works with children as a Minister and outside her Ministerial role as a Proprietor she strongly applauds the organizers for this laudable initiative. Charing the meeting, Prof. Esi Sutherland-Addy, advised that African books be made attractive to compete with those on the international market.
Madam Akoss Ofori-Mensah, the President of iBBY-Ghana, said illustrations were important to children because pictures fascinated more than words hence the need to use images to make the books attractive. Ofori-Mensah said some books from the colonial era were still being used today because the texts, illustrations, printing and binding were beautifully done.
“As a child, I read stories such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and others. The colonial masters shared their stories with us and I remember my school teacher taught me poems that I can still recite now, made to draw daffodils in my exercise book but until I travelled to the UK, I had never seen daffodils,” Madam Ofori-Mensah said.
However, it was time to replace such books with those that are culturally and environmentally relevant for children. Ghana has local stories that could help children affirm their identity, learn about their culture, environment and build their confidence. She therefore called on African publishers to use illustrations to make their books attractive to children
During an interview with Muna Kalati’s reporter, Christian Elongué, Mr Mingzhou Zhang, the iBBY President, said that IBBY mandate was to promote the joy of reading and literacy among children and make children’s literature and plays more accessible, affordable and of high quality. He said the high rate of illiteracy in Africa had become a barrier to prosperity, adding that it was good to encourage children to read because it provided them the ability of learning spontaneously. Mr Mingzhou added that reading created wisdom, understanding and broadened the minds of children.
Dmitry Suslov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Ghana and Liberia, presented at the conference the upcoming IBBY-2020 International congress, which will be held for the first time in Russia in September next year. On behalf of the IBBY Russian section she invited all participants of the African conference to Moscow.
IBBY Ghana Meshack Asare
During the IBBY Ghana Mesharck Asare Prize ceremony, the representant of Mrs Rebecca Akuffo-Addo, First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, called on book illustrators to build on the foundations laid by Meshack Asare: « I am most delighted to know that the Ghanaian author and illustrator Mr Meshack Asare has been producing world class children’s books. His books have travelled far and wide, translated into many languages and won many prizes ». It is encouraging to see African writers and illustrators produce works which are culturally relevant and meet international standards.
Mr Shi Ting Wang, the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, said Mr Asare’s works were also popular among Chinese children and amongst them was « Sosu’s Call » which had always been a best-selling. He said children were the future of Africa and to liberate the continent from the shackles of poverty, children’s education was the way to go. He said the embassy would play an active role and serve as a bridge and link to promote cultural, educational exchanges and cooperation China and Africa as well as children’s books to solidify the relationship between China and Africa.
Zhang Mingzhou, IBBY President, added that children’s literature is the basis for building a community of common destiny for mankind, promoting the development of children’s literature in all countries to higher standards and letting children have access to high-quality books from an early age: « We shall work together to build a community of common destiny for mankind, and lead mankind to a better future ».
The Man of the Night, Mr Meshack Asare said one of his best quotes over the years is: « as for us we will store our treasures in the hearts of men », adding that this applies to everyone who was committed to help children and the world at large. « Whatever we have got and all of our resources- we are storing them in the hearts of children, » he said. His entire effort is to meet the goal of trying to store their treasures, talents, visions and imaginations in the hearts of men.
Mr Edmund Opare, illustrator of books such « Mimi’s Mystery », “Mama’s Cover cloth” and « City Sounds” was the winner of the first IBBY Ghana Meshack Asare Prize. He said it was a great feeling to win this highly contested prize which would give hope to the younger generation in the publishing industry. He said Ghana has the potential to do what was being done by other nations across the globe and it is important the government together with stakeholders came in to help grow the industry so that books and other material which are printed overseas could be done in the country.
Madam Akoss Ofori-Mensah, President, IBBY Ghana, also presented and decorated the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana Mr Shi Ting Wang with a « Kente » cloth, a local cultural dress.
The Meeting was hosted by IBBY (International Board for Books for the Young) Ghana, a member-organization that brings together promoters of children’s books in Ghana. They collaborate widely to promote literacy, libraries and Ghanaian books for children and young people. They organized the bi-annual IBBY Ghana Meshack Asare Prize for Children’s Illustrated Storybooks, which celebrate talented Ghanaian illustrators and promote picture books in Ghana.
The official website of the 5th IBBY Africa Conference: https://www.ibbyghana.org/