Zimbabwe International Book Fair used to be the biggest and best book fair in Africa during the 1990s. It plunged into oblivion in 2008 and has been trying to recover from Zimbabwe’s economic crisis for the last two years.
The early success of ZIBF lay not only with the adequate funding. As noted by Sonny Wadaw, also there was the aspect of an extremely committed, innovative and results-driven executive led by a dynamic leadership running the book fair in Harare. All these factors were critical in unlocking donor support for the Book Fair and in transforming it into a major book trading and literary showpiece not just for Zimbabwe but for the whole of Africa.
But ZIBF 2006 was held in the atmosphere of despair and economic downturn. A combined assault on the industry by the era of hyperinflation, the inability of the industry stakeholders to register viability in inhospitable times and Zimbabwe’s complicated relations with the international donor community saw the Book Fair effectively failing to organise the annual event during 2008 and 2009.
Book Café, an ongoing book fair
The Book Café (launched 1997, Harare) is operating under the umbrella of the Pamberi Trust, with creative director Paul Brickhill and managing director Steve Khosa. This unassuming café and bar presents more than 600 cultural events a year. The Book Café is renowned for protest poetry, debates on current issues such as land justice or journalistic ethics, and for staging often controversial performances. Book Café is a laureate of 2011 Prince Claus Awards. The award for Book Café comes as it commemorates its 30 years of history (including Grassroots Books, the radical bookshop that transformed into Book Cafe in 1997).