By Sinenhlanhla Ngwenya
All you have to do is have the equipment called a computer and a system called Wi-Fi in order to be able to call yourself a publisher, said keynote speaker at the APK UJ library during one recent morning.
Checole was speaking at a public lecture hosted by the UJ Library on how to publish academic and non-academic work in Africa. His topic was centred on the publication of books and how the Africa World Press publishing house was established for Afro-centric content to be published.
He started off jokingly stating that people were not to imitate his method of publishing, lightening the air in the room. He expanded further on the speech explaining that many good things have indeed happened in and relating Africa.
He said that Nelson Mandela was released from prison and formed a democratic South Africa; the former United States of America President Barack Husain Obama was the first black American president and Suites TV star Megan Markel made her way into the royal family. “There was a largely African presence in the royal wedding,” he said.
However, he also stressed about the lack of liberation of African countries. “Not a single African country can be called a liberated one. Asian countries have the same age we do but they are way ahead,” Checole said.
Reason(s) behind Africa World Press
He mentioned that he had worked with the famous Lupita Ngyongo’s father to form the first African studies in Mexico City where South African languages, such as IsiZulu and Xhosa, are studied.
Africa World Press was formed due to Checole’s struggle along with the continent’s sought for self-determination. The meaning of the name of his publishing house, he explained, refers to “Africa is the world and the world is Africa; there is no humanity without Africa.”
“Every African that I saw had a sense of inferiority,” said Chechole having explained that he is from a small village in Ethiopia.
He mentioned that what really drove him to be a publisher was that he had been taught in school that he and his people were uncivilized as opposed to the colonizers, whose identity is acceptable.
Therefore, “My first task as a publisher was to build an African centre and everything we do would be published in it.”
The very first published book he produced was of one written by a famous Kenyan writer, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. The title of the book is Barrel of a Pen and it had been written on toilet paper whilst Ngugi was in a Kenyan prison.
The two met in London where Ngugi had moved to after his release, where he struggled to find a publisher. “I audaciously had to say, ‘Don’t worry Ngugi, I’ll publish it’,” joked Checole.
The challenge he faced mainly when it came to publishing his books in the United States was how to publish his book and also get people to read them. It was then that he founded book stores for African Americans where his books were available for them to read.
Types of publishing
He noted that he had to create his own distribution procedure to be able to distribute his books and that there are two ways of publishing. There is publishing for profit or publishing that is mission driven. Africa World Press is one that he claims to be mission driven.
Africa World Press mainly publishes none fiction books that produce academic content that are pre-reviewed and the others are essentially for the general public. For example, a story book that would inspire one to think positively about themselves.
A number of the attendees were pleased about the lecture. While some found it helpful, informative, others connected to what the speaker was saying.
“The presentation helped in as it revealed the procedure of publishing in terms of production and distributing,” said BSc Physiology and Psychology student Mbulelo Nxamashe to The Open Journal.
“It was informative, and one thing that stuck out for me was his point in going back to our roots in terms of like the culture,” Nxamashe continued.
“I’ve always been about freeing my people and stuff. Coming here just connected [me] with Mr Kassauhn and it was overly, overly helpful,” commented Education student Kgomotso Manayise.
When asked by The Open Journal how he thought his lecture influenced students, Checole said, “I hope it inspires them to think about themselves; to ask questions ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What am I here for?’ for them to still know themselves.”
Reporting by Sinenhlanhla Ngwenya; Editing by Gaby Ndongo