“The question is, what kinds of books should we be writing, in which languages, and when are we going to have books in our local languages,” Almami Fanding Taal told a news conference on Wednesday.
Mr Taal is the president of Writers’ Association of The Gambia, which is to observe World Book and Copyright Day, with the full support of the National Commission for UNESCO.
He added: “If the book does not have a future, or is in doubt, I think as a nation our development would be compromised because it is in books we store our knowledge, try to find solutions to some of our technical problems.”
WAG commemorates the day annually and this year’s event will be characterised by a symposium to be held under the theme ‘The future of the book as a cultural product’.
Taal said: “World Book and Copyright Day is a day recognised by the UNESCO General Assembly to recognise the creators of intellectual and copy right products.
“The main objective of the association is to promote cultural literacy in The Gambia and to re-revive reading culture where most of the people would be lovers of books.
“We hope that on 24 April we would be able to get a very experienced panel from educationists, cultural entrepreneurs to development workers to talk to us on this year’s theme which is “The future of the book as a cultural product”.
“We will also talk about the protection and the recognition that has been given to writers. We hope that with the support of UNESCO-NATCOM, we would be able to celebrate this event in a grand style, considering the fact that this year is the Golden Jubilee of The Gambia.
“We would also be able to hear from a lot of educational establishments that reading and writing is one of the challenges that even senior secondary schools are having. So it is important on a day like World Book and Copyright Day to give this importance again to the writers, teachers and everybody who has reason to deal with books because books are repository of knowledge, they are the custodians of our culture and values.
“We need to be reminded of their importance especially in an age where we have a lot of distractions in terms of technology; you have so many things either on screen or radio that have kept a lot of people from reading. We also need to prepare our own local stories. Unesco-Natcom has been very generous in supporting us and we are grateful to them.”
Speaking further, Mr Taal emphasised the need to reflect and recognise Gambians who have stood out in the field of writing, such as Dr Lenrie Peters and Lady Augusta Jawara.
WAG boasts of exemplary members who have gone on to man important positions in the country. Its past secretary general Dr Cherno Omar Barry is now permanent secretary, ministry of Higher Education. Founding president, Mr Nana Gray Johnson, now dean of faculty of journalism, UTG, had served as minister for information minister, and he was replaced in that ministry by Mr Sheriff Bojang, who is the immediate past secretary general of WAG.
“We have been in our own way contributing to the process of nation building by being associated with people whose services to the country are out there for everybody to see,” said Mr Taal, himself a former High Court judge and CEO of Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He added: “We have one book published in our name (Gambian proverbs in three local languages) with the financial assistance of Unesco-Natcom. Copies of the books are still available at Timbooktoo and with our treasurer. We want to see that writing does not only become a hobby, but something that pays and as an opportunity.”
Meanwhile, the April 24 event will also witness the unveiling of the website of WAG.]]>