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By Elizabeth Enanga Mokake (ASMAC student on internship) — The Minister of Arts and Culture, Ama Tutu Muna, has observed that Cameroonians do not read nor visit libraries.

Ama Muna, Culture Minister

Ama Muna made the remark while chairing the opening ceremony of the National Consultation Day with stakeholders of the book industry on October 9 at the Yaounde Conference Centre.
At the meeting, organised under the theme; “Reviving the book industry and the reading culture in Cameroon,” Ama Muna acknowledged the fact that Cameroon has good writers.

She paid tribute to writers like Mongo Beti, Renee Philombe, Marcien Towa, just to name a few, but lamented that Cameroonians do not read. The Minister expressed hope that the consultation will permit stakeholders in the book industry to examine the problems and provide solutions. Stakeholders identified the problems plaguing the book industry and reading culture in Cameroon.

In an expose titled; “Book and Reading in Cameroon: the current situation and perspective”, one of the writers, Prof. Eboussi Boulaga, decried the fact that 80 percent of books in the Cameroon are not produced in the country, making it difficult and expensive for authors to survive. That, notwithstanding, he said, even when books are produced, Cameroonians do not make the slightest effort to read them.

Buma Kor, another writer, in his own presentation titled; “The book situation in Cameroon: the English-speaking experience”, said during the German colonial rule in Cameroon, Germans had instilled in English-speaking Cameroonians the habit of reading.

To drive home his point, he recalled that in 1905, the Germans opened the first printing press in Bali, then Buea in 1930 and Victoria in 1955. Buma Kor said, though it was the Germans  who instilled reading in Cameroonians, it were the British who developed it by creating libraries, newspapers, bookshops throughout the country and also wrote books such as the Bible in local languages.

“Our literature is not dead… it is buried in the minds of our people”, the writer opined. He said some of them who went to school in the 1940’s can testify that there were more bookshops in Bamenda than bars. Buma Kor said reading for pleasure nowadays has been relegated to the background. He added that most bookshops only have textbooks and not books on general culture.

The writer proposed that in order to revive the reading culture in Cameroon, libraries have to be introduced in schools. He also made mention the need to form a professional book association where stakeholders can seat and discuss the challenges facing this sector. Reacting to the presentations, the President of Authors Rights Corporation for Literature and Dramatic Arts, SOCILADRA, Elise Meka Mballa, urged the Government to find a way to fight against piracy.

Another writer and former Member of Parliament, Lucas Tasi Tang, said Cameroon is running on the spot and not developing. He said stakeholders have to revisit their policies on books, especially on textbooks in the various Ministries. He lamented that people would rather buy a bottle of beer than replenish their minds.

In a lighthearted manner, humorist, Mister Mystero, said nowadays youths no longer know how to express themselves because they don’t read.  The humorist went ahead to ask how many parents read, and along with their children? Instead, they fight over the TV remote control on what channel to watch. The seminar brought together writers, authors, publishers, librarians, booksellers and distributors from all the corners of the National territory.

First published in The Post print edition no 01383

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