Barnboksveckans gäster 2018: Girmay Aregawi

Girmay Aregawi, född 1974, har grundat Tigrai Culture, Language, and Art Development Association som arbetar för att sprida litteratur, konst och utbildning i Tigrai-regionen i Etiopien. Organisationen fokuserar särskilt på att stödja barn och ungdomslitteratur på tigrinska och Girmay har själv skrivit och översatt både dikter, sånger och folksagor. Girmay är journalist i botten och driver även den tigrinska kulturtidskriften Rihan. När han skriver för barn och unga vill han förmedla livets stora teman som kärlek, och vänskap, mod och sammanhållning.

IB:  Why did you become a children’s books author and publisher?

Girmay:  There may be different reasons for becoming a children’s author. But, for me the reasons are threefold. First, writing to children is growing and living with them all the time. Second, their love is not artificial, and their respect is hearty. Third, I have a responsibility.

My country Ethiopia, especially Tigrai, is rich in culture, history and heritage. We have about 6000 years old history and literature. And, my region, Tigrai, is the cradle of civilization. But, opposite to the above reality, currently, we are poorly performing in literature and education. Our children and youth have little published books to read in their mother language. The reading and writing culture is very much poor. Our schools and the community as a whole have not adequate libraries, supplementary and supporting books for children. And, the curriculum is quite poor.

So, those and other similar challenges ignite a courage in me at least to have my own contribution.

IB:  Do you believe that children’s books should be read by grown-ups as well?

Girmay:  Why not? Children books does not mean only for children. Children books does not mean those books only read by children. The moral, the lesson, the imaginations, the inspiration and the positive thinking the books preach should also be for the grown-ups.

IB:   What do you like most – being a grown-up or a child?

Girmay:  I need to be both. I need to be a child, when I am writing and speaking for children. And, I need to be a grown-up when I need to take care of our children – who are our future.

IB:   Where does your commitment to children’s literature come from?

Girmay:  When I started publishing a magazine in 1999 E.C. People who had been reading my magazine, Rihan - in Tigrigna, were repeatedly asking me to have children’s column. But, I failed to do so. Because, it was not easy to find a children’s author who could write me an article in Tigrigna.

Later on, some grown-up authors started to collect folktales and write creative stories for children. And, I took the time to read most of those books. But, those books were full of errors in: spelling; wording, and moral.

To this end, so as to have my own contribution to fill the gap, I have started to translate and publish well known stories in to Tigrigna.

IB:   What do you want to tell with your books and poems? - Do you have a specific theme or mission with them?

Girmay:  Frankly speaking, as a poet since poetry is about emotions and imaginations, I could not have specific theme or mission. The best reason is; because as a human being I fail to know when I able to walk my world of emotions and imaginations.

But, when I come to writing for children, I need to tell them more about love, friendship, unity, positive thinking, hardworking, courage, and nature

IB:    Do you have a favorite among your books or poems?

Girmay:  No. But, I can invite you a poem from my poetry book – ‘tselim tseba’ which means black milk. The poem is entitled as the journey of life. And it tries to tell everybody that there are small deaths and a second birthday before the final death in life. But sure, it is for the hardworking and courageous ones.

IB:    What are you working on right now?

Girmay:  I am director-general of Tigrai Culture, Language, and Art Development Association.

The association is a not-for-profit organization which aims to be a development foundation in the region. The association is organizing different forums, trainings, symposiums and researches to educate and empower young, emerging artists. The association, as a new spirit, to Tigrai culture, language and arts is also striving to make culture and art for social change.

As director-general and founder of the association, I am pleased to focus in child literacy, promoting reading and writing culture in the region, and building smart and comprehensive libraries mainly for children and youth in each and every woreda.