Day of the Author: ‘A good book speaks to the soul of the reader’ – Phehello Mofokeng

Independent publisher Geko Publishing announces Day of the Author so Mandi Vundla touched base with Phehello Mofokeng about being the founder of an independent publishing company, writer and organizer.

Day of the author
“Parents born in the 70s and 80s are raising their children with TV, while most of them were raised with books” – Phehello Mofokeng

11 April 2014, Gheko publishing will be hosting “Day of the Author” Please tell us more about this event?
Day of the Author is an event of literature, book expo, book readings, discussions, book launches, workshops, a book sprint, poetry session, book cover gallery/exhibition and music/live performances. The aim of the book day is to expose readers to the 20-book titles of Geko Publishing and to profile the authors of the award-winning independent publishing house Geko Publishing. The event takes place alongside the International African Literature Conference at Wits University, hosted by African Literature Department under Dr Bhekisizwe Petersen.

You have a jaw dropping line up, how did you narrow down your selection?
Well that was easy! We pulled almost all the authors that Geko has published before and we made a line up with them. Then we went out of our immediate Geko family into the extended family to ask practitioners to host a workshop here, run a networking session there, to take part in the book sprint etc

Please describe this event in one quote?
“Orgasmic symphony of creative literary minds in one space under the auspices of one of the leading independent publishing houses in SA”

What does it mean to be an independent publisher?
It means a lot of hard work. It also means that you can publish whatever you want – whether it’s good or bad, but at Geko we try and print only what is not only good, but best! It also means that you can break the rules of publishing and literature. But I think most importantly it means you can set new trends and lead the pack and that is what Geko aims to do.

Please tell us what best defines a good book?
I have no idea – all publishers are in search for such. But I would say that, at Geko a good book is one that speaks to the soul of the reader, one that resonates the author’s storyline well and one that fulfills primarily the ideals of the author.

What do you presume is the reason for South Africa’s low literacy rate and what is the resolve for this dilemma?
I know this is cliché – but I think we can blame apartheid for this. Remember the people that we consider illiterate now mostly come from Bantu education or are a second (if not the first) generation of that! Remember Bantu education was not teaching people for any good reason – it taught people to raise them as labour for white privilege or industry. Secondly, the generation after Bantu education is the TV generation … Parents born in the 70s and 80s are raising their children with TV, while most of them were raised with books. TV sucks out the intelligence out of anyone watching. It is a one-direction medium and it takes nothing to absorb it, whereas consuming books is very beneficial – you are reading, comprehending, imagining, using all your senses – seeing, smelling (the book – try it, it is an orgasmic experience), touching etc … Lastly it is technology! Technology is making things easier – it requires people to use less and less of their own mental faculties – so the is GPS when we used printed maps, there is Google when we used encyclopedia, there are cell phones when we used to write letters etc

There is no one reason why people are getting dumber and dumber – there is a whole cacophony of them … If your question aims at me addressing books, here is my answer. Books are too damn expensive. For as long as the monopoly of selling books and distributing them sits in the hands of big chain stores, our people will never afford books. Geko is opening Book Spazas in the next two or three months. Book Spaza will be a spaza shop in the middle of a township … our aim is to sell books so cheap – for example with R100 you should get 2 books, and a Coke or cup of coffee or cheap wifi connection. The Book Spazas will be in Soweto, Alex and other townships – the main aim is to roll them out to rural areas and all over SA – you will see levels of literacy improving … You cannot make books ultra-expensive and expect people who have a  choice between bread and butter to buy them. So we need to bring the cost of books way way down and then we will see a change

If you were trapped in a burning building and you had to choose 3 author to write you to safety, who would it be and why?
Sabata-mpho Mokae, Tuelo Gabonewe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Thomas Mofolo – I can go on!

What is the one task you hate about organizing an event?
Everything. I hate events – period. If I had a choice, I would not do it!

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