Book Week celebrated in Cayo Print E-mail
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Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:00

Author Elodio Aragon with his book,‘In the Flow of Eternity’BookWeek ended on April 27th in the Cayo District, after a three- day series of events for which the book industry had an opportunity to celebrate under the theme, “Books: Food For the mind”. Under the stewardship of the Belize Book Industry Association (BBIA), it was an occasion to enjoy the gift of books and also to meet their authors directly.

The fun filled Book Week started at the George Price Centre for Peace and Development last Thursday with a book fair, showcasing publications from Belize, Jamaica and Central America. There were also workshops promoting the skill of writing. This trend continued last Friday and Saturday at the Cayo Welcome Center in San Ignacio Town, where in addition to creative writing, a workshop was held on the repair and binding of books. Then it was at a timely point on Saturday, the heavy weights of fiction writers gathered in the media rich and air-conditioned atmosphere of the Cayo Welcome Center Display Room to further discuss refining their art.

The fourth ever Book Week in Belize was also in commemoration of the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO’s) World Book and Copyright Day, which was observed around the World on April 23rd, 2013. For this year, the City of Bangkok was designated “World Book Capital 2013” in recognition of its program to promote reading among young people and underprivileged sections of the population.

One of those authors who took prominence for Book Week 2013 was Olatunji Balogun, who showed his book for the first time at the George Price Center for Peace and Development in Belmopan last Thursday. In his nineteenth book, “A Victim of My Wealth,” Balogun chronicles his personal experiences and examines what happened when his land was illegally settled and the processes involved in regaining control of his property. Another launch of this same book was done at the Leo Bradley Library in Belize City this past Monday.

Olatunji Balogun wrote his first book in 1995 called 'A Victim of Our Wealth.' He then went on to produce a magazine series called ‘Re-awakening’. After eleven more volumes of that series, he upgraded his work to write 'Stolen Legally' in which he looks at the evolution of the political and economic structures of human societies to the modern era.

“I must express my deepest appreciation to the Belizean people who have fed, clothed and sheltered [me] to almost twenty nine years,” he says.

Balogun then summed the nature of his works,

“…My work is centered around trying to expose those things that are hidden and has brought us into the condition we are in.”

Books by their nature are the avenues where modern societies and even ancients ones have transmitted knowledge into the future. Experts like Dr. Virginia Hampton, whose specialty is in English and literature and who is now reviewing Dr. Herbert Gale’s Comprehensive Crime Report issued in 2010, believes that the time has come for Belize to make its mark on the literary World and in a concrete way. However, there remains the challenge of finding a good place for fiction writers to get their books published in Belize.

“It is hard to find a publisher and it is hard to sell your books,” she said.

At the inauguration of Book Week last Friday at the Cayo Welcome Center, Ruth Gutierrez, representing the President of the BBIA Montse Casademunt, asked what it would be like if we had a cultural policy and book laws that promotes reading, writing and publishing. Nigel Encalada, Director of the Institute for Social and Culture Research at the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) has told The Guardian that such a policy is now about ninety five percent complete. According to Encalada, a national consultation with stakeholders has already been conducted.

“We are in the process now of developing a national policy which includes a policy on books…we are looking at laws that will promote reading, writing and of course the development of the book industry,” he said.

The draft for this new book policy will be ready by July 2013 after which it will be sent back to stakeholders for their input.

But authors like Olatunji Balogun are hoping that any such new policy on books will have a long standing feature in place.

“I think the culture policy on books is very important…but I can only hope that it goes beyond just talk, because you know we have a system in our society where they come out with these brilliant ideas, it is mentioned, people get excited and all of a sudden everything dies down ,” he said.

A Belize City-based book distributor, The Book Center, was present for book week in San Ignacio Town for both Friday and Saturday. Its head, Mick Craig, reflects on the challenges that his industry now faces.

“We don’t have a culture that likes to read…the general Belizean in my view does not have the passion for reading that my generation back in the fifties and sixties had.”

To address this situation Craig supports placing scarce resources on three-to five-year olds', whereby decade after decade a society of readers could be built.

Already, the promoters of Book Week have been encouraging the art of reading. This was made clear on the final event for Book Week last Saturday night on Burns Avenue in San Ignacio where various poets and writers had an opportunity to make their work widely know.

BookWeek has been successfully held in Western Belize thanks to inputs from the Belize Natural Energy Limited, NICH and and many others. There was also a major contribution by the Belize National Library Service with their “Bring one, Take One” campaign for all of the three exiting days of Book Week.