Guinea captured my attention when its capital Conakry became UNESCO World Book Capital for 2017. Conakry is home to a new national library, renovation work is underway on another destroyed by fire in 2012, and there are ambitious plans to build a media library in each municipality. Things are looking good on the infrastructure front! Here’s hoping a year of celebrating literature will help promote interest in books and reading among Guinea’s population. This West African nation had an adult literacy rate of just 30.5% in 2015 and is one of the poorest countries in the world.
It comes as no great surprise, therefore, to learn that the market for children’s books is very small. In an excellent 2014 article, children’s literature specialist Marie Paul Huet explains that books are expensive commodities in Guinea: the cost of one book can provide a meal for a family of five. But she suggests that financial reasons are just part of the equation, as families are often able to afford other ‘luxuries’ such as pre-paid SIM cards and make-up. Psychological factors may also account for the limited size of the market ‘Why offer a child a book when they cannot read?’ or the lack of reading culture in the country.
One publisher in particular is driving change in the children’s book industry in Guinea. Editions Ganndal was founded in 1992 by Aliou Sow. The company publishes children’s literature and textbooks in French and other national languages (of which there are many). Their aim is to produce books that reflect daily life in Guinea and feature characters children can identify with, in an environment that is familiar to them. Ganndal was awarded the prestigious Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Literature Publisher – Africa in 2017. A selection of their books is available in France and online through Oiseau Indigo.*
French publishing house Editions L’Harmattan also has a range of Guinean children’s books, some of which can be downloaded direct from their website.
The three titles I have selected for our sojourn in Guinea are all published by Editions Ganndal and ordered through Oiseau Indigo. All are in French; despite my best efforts, I was unable to find any picture books in English.
Le voyage de papa (Daddy’s trip) by Saliou Bah, illustrated by Irina Condé (Editions Ganndal, 2013) – title not currently available in English
Alpha, le petit cireur (Alpha, the shoe-shine boy) by Boubacar 1er Diallo, illustrated by Robert Koumassadouno (Editions Ganndal, 2008) – title not currently available in English
Fatime, Fatou, Fatoumata by Chantal Serrière with paintings by Aboubcar Demba Bangoura ‘Papus’ (Editions Ganndal, 2005) – title not currently available in English
I hope you enjoy discovering these three picture books from Guinea with me.[Image: Conakry by Maarten van der Bent, made available under a creative commons licence. Source: flickr.com]
*Edited on 7 November 2018: L’Oiseau Indigo is no longer in operation.