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Modjaji Books

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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Frankfurt revisited

I’ve had the wonderful good fortune of going to and being part of the Frankfurt Book Fair three times. This year was the first time as a trade visitor and ‘on my own’. I was lucky enough to be on the Invitation Programme in 2011 and 2012. I remember how daunting and overwhelming the Fair was, especially the first time. I almost had a panic attack when I went to my first appointment in Hall 8, where the publishers from the English-speaking world converge. This year I found the Fair familiar, easy to navigate.

Frankfurt is different for everyone who goes there. Each person has a particular reason for being there and a particular place in world of books and publishing. The most important thing is developing relationships and building on them. If you are a bookish person, it is an absolute thrill to meet like-minded folk from all parts of the world. I love the “United Nations of Publishing” atmosphere, especially in Halls 5 and 6 where most of the international publishers are based. I shared accommodation with friends I made in the 2012 Invitation Programme, publishers from Brazil and Croatia.

At first I was sorry not to have a stand. But as I got comfortable with being a trade visitor in some ways it was better. I was lucky to have the Invitation Programme in Hall 5.0 as a home base for storage and warm welcomes from the organisers, Corry von Mayenburg and Doris Oberländer made me feel at home. I was also delighted to see Benoit Knox from Pretoria on the invitation Programme in Hall 5.0, and to reconnect with friends I’d made in the previous two years. In the end it was valuable for me to attend meetings, seminars and talks without worrying about my stand.

Corry von Mayenburg and Gustavo Faraon at the party on the boat on Monday evening

The Frankfurter Hof

A few highlights for me: I met Mieke Ziervogel from Pereine Press in London at the Frankfurter Hof on Tuesday evening before the Fair started. She publishes only three books a year, all novellas translated into English. These titles are carefully curated each year, and sold individually, but also as a set. She uses all kinds of innovative marketing and sales approaches, including salons at her home, a pop-up shop and a UK tour. I was thrilled to meet her, and although I’ve been following her for a couple of years on Twitter, a mutual Twitter follower introduced her to me, and she suggested we meet in Frankfurt. I was also quite awed at the idea of actually setting foot in the Frankfurter Hof, where all the important publishers meet after the Fair. As a publisher from a tiny press in South Africa, I feel quite marginal to the main goings-on in Frankfurt, so I set off to the Frankfurter Hof on Tuesday evening with some trepidation. Apart from one glass of wine costing 12 Euros, it was a delightful evening, and not nearly as intimidating as I expected it to be.

On Thursday evening, I was invited to three parties all happening at the same time at 5.00, there was the Whisky party of US Small Presses in Hall 8, the Australian Party also in Hall 8 and the LGBTI party in Hall 4. I went to the Small Press party first to say hello and thank Jeffrey Leppendorf for assisting me with sharing information about the Small Publishers Catalogue: Africa, 2013 with the publishers who are part of CLMP or The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. Then I went to the LGBTI party in Hall 4. Jim Baker fom Quer Verlag in Berlin was incredibly generous and introduced me to people he thought might be interested in Queer Africa (MaThoko’s Books) and Reclaiming the L-Word. I was lucky to meet the man who runs the biggest and best gay bookshop in Europe, and also a wonderful resourceful writer/small press publisher based in Spain, who has proved to be a fund of information and knowledge and shared resources.

I was blown away by the possibilities of digital printing at a semiar I attended called “The Beauty of the Book”. My mind was racing and I looked forward to sharing my ideas with colleagues back home.

Every conversation you have with anyone in Frankfurt has the potential to offer up an insight, a new perspective an idea of how to do things differently or better. I was also able to ask Benoit and Bibi Bakare Yusuf of Cassava Republic Press (also on the Invitation Programme and my friend) to stock and sell the African Small Publishers’ Catalogue, 2013 on their stands. I also met new publishers to feature in the next edition of the catalogue.

Other highlights for me were visiting the best designed books exhibition in Hall 4.0 and visiting the Brazilian exhibition, as Guest of Honour, the dinner and party on the boat on the Monday night, meeting people from the Alliance of Independent publishers and going to their party, some sightseeing around Frankfurt. For more pictures on the Modjaji Books Facebook page click here

A tip for those going to Frankfurt for the first time, get a German sim card with unlimited wifi. Last year having my phone on roaming cost me over R4000! An unpleasant bill at the end of November.

Queer Africa

Reclaiming the L-Word
Book details

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Frankfurt’s Invitation Programme “a great way in” for small publishers

Second day in a row that the Small Publishers’ Catalogue: Africa, 2013 has been written about in Publishing Perspectives. Today they have reprinted the article I wrote up about my experiences on the Frankfurt Book Fair Invitation Programme in 2011 and 2012. Very cool to have the exposure for the Catalogue and for the Invitation Programme.

If going to a large chain bookstore is a depressing experience for a small publisher – all those shelves and piles of shiny new books – how on earth could taking part in the Frankfurt Book Fair be such a wonderfully encouraging experience? It may seem unlikely but for me, as the publisher at Modjaji Books, visiting the biggest book fair in the world is pure bliss.

‘Frankfurt’ is all about people and meeting or reconnecting with publishing friends from other countries and from home. Being at Frankfurt means five days of total immersion in the international book world and discussing and thinking about the questions of the day with others who are equally interested. It’s wonderful to be in a space where everybody is passionate about and engaged in books, writers, writing. All around you hear people talking about publishing, book design, and all the hot questions about where the book is going. Does the printed book have a future? Will e-books and digital publishing mean the end of books as we know them?

I wish I could go on the Invitation Programme every year. Read the article to see why. Sigh. I am working out various angles to try and get me and Modjaji Books to Frankfurt this year too. Let’s see if it works out.

To see more pictures click here and here or go to the Modjaji Books Facebook page and check out the photos there.

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Small Publishers’ Catalogue: Africa, 2013 “it’s a beauty”

Publishing Perspectives ran a review of the Small Publishers’Catalogue today.

Dennis Abrams had this to say:

In January of this year, we reported on the news that South Africa’s Modjaji Books was in the process of updating its Small Publishers’ Catalogue for Africa. Well, the new edition has just come out, and it’s a beauty.

… the book is more than just a list of publishers. It’s a resource guide for with articles on everything from “Advice to writers on how to get your poetry published,” to “The literary scene in Accra: A Review,” and “Airing our dirty laundry.” One of particular interest to readers here, is Colleen Higgs’ missive on the Frankfurt Book Fair Invitation Programme, an experience the might be had by any small publisher from anywhere in the developing world at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

To read the whole review, click here

Once again thank you to all those who made it possible to do this project! You know who you are.

Small Publishers' Catalogue: Africa, 2013

Book details

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Small Publishers’ Catalogue: Africa, 2013 is out and about

A couple of weeks ago we posted out the Small Publishers’ Catalogue to those who had supported the project via Indiegogo, to those who had listed in the Catalogue or advertised. We’re thrilled with the responses and with the final result. We’ve had emails and some Facebook messages about getting the catalogue and which bits people especially liked. A number said they liked Helen Moffett’s article “Dear Lovely Author” and also the article about the Frankfurt Book Fair which I wrote.

The listings of publishers is from all over Africa, mostly Anglophone, but not only, and includes a publisher from Algeria and two from Mauritius! There are also lovely surprises, some small publishers in the UK and US who have either published something with an African focus or generally focus on African publishing.

You can download it here from Little White Bakkie or you can get in touch with me at cdhiggs at to order a copy. It costs R120 if you buy direct from me at Modjaji Books, including postage within South Africa, and a little more to cover postage internationally. In South Africa it’s available from better bookstores and online too from the regular e-tailers.

We were delighted to have organisations like Worldreader, the Goethe Institute, Blue Weaver, Bookslive, NELM, Adams Bookstores, Rhodes University Creative Writing Masters, GALA, FUNDZA, Paperight, and of course the fabulous and generous Megadigital who sponsored the printing.

Thanks to everyone who has been involved, who has helped make it happen, who has bought a copy, offered a lead or two, and to everyone who cares about small publishing and independent publishing and a flourishing literary culture in Africa.

Book details

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Small Publishers’ Catalogue: Africa, 2013 out soon, order now

The Small Publishers’ Catalogue: Africa, 2013 will be available from next week. We will be posting out copies to all the listees, and our Indiegogo sponsors and advertisers. If you would like a copy – we can let you have one for R110 (including postage within SA). It will be selling in stores for R150. Email me at cdhiggs at if you would like to order a copy. It will be available in better bookstores towards the end of May.

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Queer Africa: New and collected fiction up on Little White Bakkie

Queer AfricaMaThoko’s Books’ first fiction title will be out soon. We (the team who have worked on this book) are all really excited to see it. It’s taken three years to put together. (Long story). Makhosazana Xaba and Karen Martin compiled the collection of “Queer African” stories from a wide range of writers on the continent.

The book is a beauty, a gorgeous cover with flaps! Carla Kreuser did the cover art work. To give you a taste of what is to come here is the teaser on Little White Bakkie.

This is what Gabeba Baderoon says about the book:
Queer Africa is a collection of charged, tangled, tender, unapologetic, funny, bruising and brilliant stories about the many ways in which we love one another on the continent. The collection includes exquisitely written work by some of the great African writers of this century – K. Sello Duiker, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Beatrice Lamwaka and Richard de Nooy – as well as new voices that map out a haunting, intricate, complex Africa. Phrases like Wamuwi Mbao’s ‘She looks like you, when nobody’s watching her’ and Sello Duiker’s narrator’s ‘gentle sadness that doesn’t take you all at once’ share with us not only the aftermath of sex, but moments where the world opens itself. In these unafraid stories of intimacy, sweat, betrayal and restless confidences, we accompany characters into cafes, tattoo salons, the barest of bedrooms, the coldly glinting spaces into which the rich withdraw, unlit streets, and their own deepest interiors. We learn much in these gloriously achieved stories about love and sex, but perhaps more about why we hurt and need one another.

Book details

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Queer Africa: New and collected fiction out soon from MaThoko’s Books

GALA: Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action has started their own imprint, MaThoko’s Books. Modjaji Books has been tasked with helping them set it up. Keep an eye out for the titles that will be coming out of this exciting new imprint in the next few months.

Hot off the press in April – we have a long awaited collection of short stories titled, Queer Africa: New and collected stories edited and compiled by Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xaba. The writers who have been included in the collection are Wame Molefhe, Richard de Nooy, Dolar Vasani, Natasha Distiller, Wamuwi Mbao, Barbara Adair, Beatrice Lamwaka, Lindiwe Nkutha, Rahiem Whisgary, Mercy Minah, Roger Diamond, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Annie Holmes, TO Molefe, Davina Owombre, Martin Hatchuell, Emil Rorke, Lindiwe Nkutha, K Sello Duiker and Rory Kilalea.

Pumla Gqola writes in the Introduction to the collection: “Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xaba have achieved an extraordinary feat in bringing together this very welcome volume of stories that imagine queer Africa in such diverse and exciting ways. It is a beautiful and necessary project that presents a shared vision across the pages of the book whilst allowing the individual short stories, and the two excerpts from novels, to stand completely in their own stead. A shared vision is not premised on agreement or similarity, as these stories show; the editors of the collection gesture towards a political, aesthetic and imaginative community that is not premised on sameness. After all, each of these stories offers a slice of what it means to be queer in Africa because in a direct sense, that description and call is what the authors responded to or what their stories suggested, prompting invitations to publish here.

One of the implied questions in this volume that is sometimes directly addressed, and obliquely gestured towards at other times, are the exact meanings of ‘queer’ when it rubs up against ‘Africa’. The stories themselves show the very many ways in which being queer in Africa, a queer Africa and queering Africa are not the same thing across time, borders, and internal boundaries, even we read ‘queer’ as always concerned with identity and a deliberate perspective in/on the world. The framing of this anthology in these terms brings together a range of world narratives about shared sexual, gender and political identification.

Queer Africa, as a name for this collection also comes with the many ways in which ‘queer’ is equally embraced and questioned by those it seeks to include and/or speak on behalf of. In a very direct sense, here we have what Gabeba Baderoon has called a ‘leaking of meaning’,producing not a tidy putting together but a sometimes coherent sense of belonging, and at other times a provisional one. Meaning leaks here because the many discussions and debates on the use of queer in African contexts are varied and on-going. These debates have the discoveries, frustrations, excitement and anger that come with all politically difficult conversations worth having. While some use the label comfortably, others are worried about whether it adequately speaks usefully to contexts outside the geographical politics of its emergence. Does its use give credence to or help challenge the homophobic claims of importation? Does it contest African hegemonies by using terms of reference that come from a place that paid no attention to queer his/her/hirstories on the continent? Others use it selectively and carefully, as shorthand, or under erasure, depending on what political work they are invested in doing across temporalities and geographies. As I continue to use ‘queer’ in this introduction, I do so mindful of these contradictions and questions. I also use it as someone whose own self-identification does not stand outside of this embattlement, and no amount of quoting Judith Butler even begins to address the problem. I write also aware that there are probably as many ‘queers’ who use it interchangeably with LGTBI as there are who insist on the two meaning very different things.”

If you would like to pre-order a copy of Queer Africa, email me at cdhiggs at – we are offering a R30 discount off the RRP of R180. If you live in South Africa, postage is included in the R150 price. The offer ends at the end of March 2013.

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Forthcoming attraction: Fractured Lives by Toni Strasburg

Award-winning film-maker, Toni Strasburg‘s memoir, Fractured Lives is coming soon to a bookstore near you.

Toni Strasburg was born in South Africa and was exiled to Britain in 1965. She studied at London University and worked in various jobs before becoming a filmmaker. She has documented apartheid-era wars in southern Africa concentrating largely on the effects on women and children. Her award-winning films include Chain of Tears and its sequel, Chain of Hope, The Other Bomb, An Act of Faith and A South African Love Story. She has served an International Peace Monitor and Election Observer for the United Nations and has consulted to and run training workshops for UNESCO and other NGO’s in southern Africa.

Fractured Lives is a memoir of one woman’s experiences as a documentary filmmaker covering the wars in southern Africa during the 1980s and 1990s.

Part autobiography, part history, part social commentary and part war story, it offers a female perspective on a traditionally male subject.

Growing up in South Africa in a politically active family, Toni went to Britain as an exile in 1965 in the wake of the famous Rivonia Trial, and in the years to follow, became a filmmaker.

Despite constant difficulties fighting for funding and commissions from television broadcasters, and the prejudices of working in a male-dominated industry, Toni made several remarkable films in Mozambique and Angola. These bear witness to the silent victims of war, particularly the women and children.

Fractured Lives paints the changing landscape of southern Africa: Namibian independence and the end of the war in Mozambique bring hope – but also despondency. Yet there is also the possibility of redemption, of building new lives for the victims of war. In its final chapters, Fractured Lives traces the power of survival and the opportunities for new beginnings.

Fractured Lives concludes with Toni’s return to South Africa after nearly three decades in exile. However, the joy following the demise of apartheid is tempered by the poignancy of returning to a place that for so long had existed in her dreams alone and the realization that home will forever lie somewhere else.

Praise for Fractured Lives:
“An eye opener! Not much is known about what transpired on the ground in our neighbouring countries during apartheid. This memoir tears into your comfort zone by means of the crackling story behind fluent documentaries on these places and times. Some of the details make your hair stand on end!” Antjie Krog

“It gave me a powerful sense of life in the Frontline States: the difficulties as well as the pleasures at a moment when the future of South Africa was still in the balance. At the same time it highlighted the emotional experiences of a woman facing her own challenges in the male world of documentary filmmaking. Toni Bernstein has integrated complex and difficult themes into a well written and fascinating account of her unique experiences in a time of personal and social conflict.” Lesley Doyal Emeritus Professor of Health Studies – University of Bristol

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Small Publishers’ Catalogue, Africa, 2013

I love it when a plan comes together! The Small Publishers’ Catalogue is happening, we’ve got listings from publishers all over the continent: Algeria, Egypt, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Namibia, a UK-based publisher of African writing, and of course lots from South African publishers. May still get listings from Togo, Mauritius, Tunisia and Morocco. Possibly Botswana, a few more Nigerian publishers, trying to get as many as possible by the end of February.

Many of the publishers we are listing for the first time have participated in the Frankfurt Book Fair/Litprom Invitation Programme.

African Books Collective, Black Letter Media, Paperight, Bookslive, the Goethe Institute, AllAboutWriting, Judy Croome, Porcupine Press, Deep South, Fundza, Helen Moffett, The Rhodes University Creative Writing MA, Farafina, and the ever generous and supportive friend of small publishers – Mega Digital have all taken out advertising so far. We are thrilled to announce that Mega Digital has agreed to sponsor an initial print run of 500 copies!

We had limited success with the Indiegogo campaign, in that we reached just over a tenth of our target budget. But we would like to offer a huge thanks to those who generously donated, mostly writers, and at least half of whom are poets. I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere. The Indiegogo sponsors include: Helen Moffett, Sarah Lotz, Richard Higgs, Arthur Attwell, Leonie Joubert, Yewande Omotoso, AllAboutWriting, Rachel Zadok, Haidee Kruger, Kobus Moolman, Lauri Kubuitsile and Carol-Ann Davids. (The anonymous donors are also poets.)

I’m hoping to put up a website for small and Indie African publishers once we’ve got the updated printed catalogue off the ground. It’ll be a work in progress that we can keep updated.

In the meantime if you or anyone you know works in publishing directly or indirectly. Please spread the word. We’d love to list them or feature them in an advert.

Our online version of the 2010 catalogue has had over 4600 hits.

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The Small Publishers’ Catalogue, Africa, 2013 project featured in Publishing Perspectives

2013 has gotten off to a good start with the feature about The Small Publishers’ Catalogue, Africa, 2013 project in Publishing Perspectives. Only 8 days to go on the Indiegogo Campaign to raise some of the money necessary to pull the project together I’m hoping that the feature in Publishing Perspectives will energise the campaign into meeting our modest target of USD3000.

African Books Collective, Bookslive, Porcupine Press, NELM, Deep South, the Rhodes University MA, Judy Croome, Helen Moffett, Black Letter Media and quite a few others have taken out advertising space in the Catalogue. We are looking to double if not treble the listings. If you want to list or advertise, don’t hesitate to contact me .

And while earlier editions were very much South Africa oriented, the 2013 version is designed to be much more comprehensive. In addition, Higgs adds that, “my dream is to be able to compile a list of African literary magazines and to publish some new articles that will be of interest and value to publishers and to writers and others in the book world in Africa and to those interested in books in Africa.

Read the full article in Publishing Perspectives by clicking here

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