#OURSTORIES is the thematic essence of our reading campaign, and the starting point on a journey of infinite paths. National Book Week and the South African Book Fair are therefore set to showcase the creative expression of #OURSTORIES. Our artistic output is created to motivate readers, enrich lives, inspire our people to read, heighten the reading culture in South Africa and increase the collection of books in every South African home. In this it embodies the essential aims of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC).
Elitha van der Sandt, CEO of the SABDC, tells her own story about an important aspect of the council’s National Book Week campaign:
uMzimkhulu in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is approximately 2.5 hours inland and south of Durban. ‘uMzimkhulu’ is an isiXhosa and isiZulu name meaning ‘big house’ or ‘great house’. The municipality has a Black African population of 99.3%, of whom 46.3% are native isiXhosa speakers.
KZN’s Provincial Library Services has chosen this community for its provincial National Book Week (NBW) event this year. I always visit new communities in which NBW stages events and I am excited. We are taking books and reading to yet another community and it is one of the most satisfying experiences life can offer. I’m also curious about what I’ll be learning: the council cannot lead strategy and policy if it doesn’t know what’s happening on the ground.
It is our aim in National Book Week to travel to as many communities as possible, particularly communities that are underserved. In other words, the many townships, rural towns and villages scattered across our landscape.
The pillars of this intervention are our provincial library services. Each Province (with the exception of Limpopo) partners with the South African Book Development Council to host NBW in these communities. Two municipalities have also committed to NBW: Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the City of Polokwane. All our co-hosts have embraced NBW and reading promotion enthusiastically, and have been a key part of its success over a number of years.
I engage with a very diverse range of people, places and cultures during these visits, and all these experiences are woven into our strategies to increase access to books in South Africa; and have learnt for certain that our nation is colourful, vibrant, textured and brimming with stories to tell.
These stories, in physical form or still to be given substance, will be a cornerstone of the more formal urban event that is the South African Book Fair.