In response to our article ‘Book Fair Turns 30‘ we received the following very enlightening history of what was once a huge and exciting event. Whilst visitors who went to the 2013 Book Fair might have had an enjoyable time, reflection on the history of this event reveals it to be a shadow of its former glory. Many thanks to Roger Stringer.
Did you know?
1. Although the ZIBF celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2013, this year was only the 26th book fair. There were no fairs in the years 1986, 1988, 1990, 2008 and 2009.
2. The first ZIBF was mainly an exhibition of books, called Book Week Africa, that were brought out from London. People who wanted to buy one of the titles had to get an invoice from a bookseller and go to their bank and apply for the foreign currency and an import licence to enable the bookseller to import a copy for them.
3. After the first three fairs, 1983, 1984 and 1985, the ZIBF was struggling, and the decision was made to hold it every two years rather than annually. It was organized in 1987 and 1989 mainly by the Ministry of Information, held at the Harare International Conference Centre, and most exhibits were just national stands operated by foreign embassies in Zimbabwe.
4. At the end of 1990, following a proposal by the (then) Chairman of the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association, Paul Brickhill, the Zimbabwe International Book Fair Trust was formed. There were sixteen Trustees, all individuals who were associated with different aspects of the book industry – publishers, booksellers, librarians, writers. The Trustees appointed Trish Mbanga as a Director to manage the book fair, and it was held in 1991, again at the Conference Centre.
5. The ZIBF Trust began work to re-brand the book fair, hold it annually again, and establish it on the world book fair calendar. Negotiations were held for the use of Harare Gardens, the first thatched structure was built in 1992 and the book fair was held in the Gardens for the first time in that year.
6. The ZIBF grew exponentially under the Trust and became the most important book and publishing event in sub-Saharan Africa.
1992: 136 exhibitors from 25 nations
1993: 170 exhibitors from 35 nations
1995: 230 exhibitors from 43 nations, 28 in Africa
1997: 270 exhibitors and 300 trade and professional visitors from 53 countries
2000: 317 exhibitors from 31 countries and an overall attendance of 23,729
7. After 2000, the ZIBF began to experience the same decline as the rest of the country, and foreign exhibitors and visitors stopped coming altogether after about 2002. The ZIBF Trust was dissolved in 2005 and replaced by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair Association. The book fair is now run by the representatives of a number of writers’ bodies and book-related associations.
ZIBF Trustee, 1990–2000 (Vice-Chairman, 1998–2000)