Throughout our childhood, we were immersed in the stereotype that Africans do not like reading, the book being the best place to hide a treasure from a black person.
We had trouble finding our way around because we knew the delights and wonders of reading. But this stereotype is dangerous in that it implicitly encourages young Africans to lose interest in reading and obscures those who are avid readers.
During our childhood, we mainly nourished our imagination with works imported from elsewhere. Scrooge Magazine, ZEMBLA Comics, Rodeo… were the main books we read. And this, of course, will impact our representation of the world and our representation in the world.
The problems with children’s literature are certainly not new and the Muna Kalati team does not claim to have discovered them. But we want to support all those who are interested – librarians, researchers, educators and parents.
Muna Kalati, in Douala, this refers to the “children’s book”, was born from this desire to make books and reading, a playful activity that is naturally part of daily practice in Cameroon and Africa. We want to provide, by this means on what reading is, an answer to the questions that the African child asks himself as he becomes more involved in the life of the universe and also in the society of which he is a part.
With the book, it is already a continent that is being discovered, from school and extracurricular books to the very rich galaxy of leisure books, historiettes, stories, tales and novels, picture books, animated books, primers and game books… We are thus endeavouring to establish lists of books chosen with the aim of excluding what is mediocre and vulgar. This is a difficult task. The librarian, often isolated, and whose tasks are heavy, does not have the time to read all the books he offers to children. We are concerned about this problem; thanks to the dedication of several of its members, the analysis of the children’s books that appear is done with care. Among the analytical sheets, the most interesting new features will be grouped together to form our quarterly magazine Muna Kalati.
Our vision is to bring the children’s book to life and to make it a living book for young people. This vision is manifested through our:
- Passion – We are passionately committed to promoting the African children’s book industry.
- Equity – We address all stakeholders in children’s publishing and all age groups of readers.
- Integrity – We provide access to quality and reliable information from organizations and individuals in the youth sector.
- Support – We organize contests to encourage writers and respond to comments and requests from subscribers.
- Diversity – We believe that children’s literature should reflect reality and nourish the imagination of all children.
Our objectives are therefore to:
- Contribute to the accessibility of the book (content and container) for young people
- Promote reading pleasure through books for children.
- Increase the visibility of authors and actors of Cameroonian and African children’s publishing
- Contribute, through research, to the legitimization of the book for children.
Our aim is obviously not to confine ourselves to the world of publishing, which Takam Tikou magazine, the only one so far dedicated to African children’s books, is exploring extensively. On the contrary, it is a question of opening up as much as possible to other aspects of the culture of the African child. This will give an important place to other media: youth theatre, youth cinema, youth television programmes, from educational programmes to cartoons. In short, each major media field has its own side for youth. This observation forces us to consider, beyond children’s literature, the existence of a media culture for young people, with its stereotypes, recurring motives, transpositions, adaptations and exchanges. Thus, far from limiting ourselves only to narrative media productions, to which we will nevertheless pay particular attention, we would like to open ourselves to all the objects of children’s culture.
We would like to gradually identify the exchanges that take place within the culture of the African child. Exchanges that occur, in a classical way, between text and image, within mixed literary forms (albums, comic strips, illustrated books), but also in a more surprising way in texts without images, whose writing is nevertheless influenced by collective images and imaginaries.