Friday, December 14, 2007

One book for 10 people

Malawians could be a bunch of idiots who have no time for books and newspapers, and if anything they are just idiotic lots who have unlimited time for nothing. That’s a typical fallacy of hasty generalisation.

Walking in the streets of Blantyre, Lilongwe and even Mzuzu during lunch or knocking off time, scores of middle-aged men and women would be seen moving up and down carrying bunches of books.

Books that are so heavy in their hands that they have to tilt when they are walking. And taking a closer look at one book, one would only understand the reason why young men and women take the trouble of carrying those kinds of books.

An even closer look could reveal the title of some of the books and lo! Banner titles as ‘Introduction to Economics level 2, or ‘Advanced Diploma in Marketing’ would greet one inquisitive eye. It is just inevitable those people have to carry those books.

Malawi National Library is no longer a place where you can find books that one can read for pleasure; National Library has been reduced to just an extension of schools as school going Malawians have turned the Library into a preparatory centre for any kind of examination.

Malawi, the country of over 14 million people, would be said to have fewer writers and by extension therefore, few people would read books for the fun of it. But this could also be just a fallacy.

In Paris, France, in metros and parks one finds people with their heads buried into their books, they talk less; they interact less and to some extent, may be they eat less as well. In short, on the outlook one would think the French read more books than Malawians.

However, the Malawian situation would also manifest in people of Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It would be very difficult to see an African displaying the novel he is reading, let alone the biography of a certain popular personality.

Africans do not read newspapers in minibuses, a good negligible number of Africans have access to ipods to listen to music while travelling. It is all just a new phenomenon.

But surprisingly an average African is more knowledgeable than an average European. An average African would know who the current president of USA is, how the Venezuelan President failed to get his way on the recent elections.

My assumption would be that an average African would read more books and have more information than an average European; however the hazy picture we all have is that Europeans are better of than Africans in terms of reading culture.

Where do they get the information? By traditional Africa likes sharing. Africans, including Malawians would share anything ranging from food to sometimes, in certain traditions, spouses.

Through this mentality of sharing, Africans are well informed and have access to a lot of information they seem not to have. If I buy a Compact Disc of Etienne Mbappe chances are that it would find its way into over 20 homes within a short period of time. The same applies to books, newspaper and magazines.

An average African is at a very economical disadvantage that buying a Chinua Achebe book would be more of a luxury, while there is a serious quest for knowledge; financial limitations are obvious the stumbling block.

It is obvious that there is serious confusion between reading culture and buying culture, I will emphatically agree that Malawians, like most Africans, do not like to buy literature materials but that does not mean they do not read. It’s the absence of the buying culture that makes people to make a sweeping statement that Malawians do not read after all.

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