Fighting for her piece

FORMER model and beauty Queen Rose Francis, who left a comfortable lifestyle as a BEE player a few years ago to become an independent publisher, says the industry still has a long way to go before being regarded as inclusive.

FORMER model and beauty Queen Rose Francis, who left a comfortable lifestyle as a BEE player a few years ago to become an independent publisher, says the industry still has a long way to go before being regarded as inclusive.

For example, Francis says distribution remains a major obstacle to new entrants in the publishing market, though the reading culture has improved and there is a potential for growth and commercial viability.

With several titles behind them, her company, African Perspectives Publishing, has just published Sol Rachilo's poetry volume, Nostalgic Waves of Soweto. Rachilo, an actor of note, writes extensively in this book about the experiences of Soweto 1976.

He and several youths of the time experienced first hand what happened in Soweto in that fateful year. He has aptly captured in poetic form this important part of history within the context of the struggle for freedom.

"The recognition of the plurality of cultures, an opportunity to rebuild and recreate an African identity, an opportunity to record the immense human social heritage of our nation is the cornerstone of our business at African Perspectives Publishing," Francis says.

"But while the educational book publishing sector in our country is robust and economically strident, it does not create an environment in which the previously marginalised are able to participate as owners, producers, marketers, distributors and consumers of our own culture.

"While the written word legitimately contributes to the cultural impact and economic interest of a developing nation like South Africa, we are working against 300 years of restrictive legislation and policy," she says.

Francis argues that South Africans cannot afford to ignore the historical context in which marginalised publishers operate.

She cites a lack of access to capital from traditional financial institutions and lack of access to markets since the South African established retail sector prioritises international publishers over local ones, and further marginalise publishers whose catalogues do not include titles supported by marketing budgets from industrialised Western economies.

"There is also a geographic discord between the majority of the South African population and urban centres, where most retail book stores are located. The average book buying consumer is of European descent, 37 years of age, female and with an interest in fiction written by Irish, English, American and Canadian writers," Francis says.

She says "without the necessary mass interest and access to literature, South African socio-political history, heritage and diverse culture cannot be discussed, interrogated and developed to fulfil its cultural, intellectual, philosophical and economic role in an increasing globalised world".

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