Artikel & Foto: Stefano Romano
It ended the 53rd edition of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the largest fair in the world dedicated to children’s literature, from April 4 to 7, which was followed by the weekend dedicated to the school visits and young readers. With the title “Fuel the Imagination” this year the Fair hosted 1,200 exhibitors from over 70 countries, with Germany as the Guest Country, which – in collaboration with the Goethe Institut Italy – presented thirty of its best illustrators in the exhibition “Look!”. This year is also celebrating the fifty years of the “Illustrators Exhibition”, the 60th anniversary of fairytales by Italo Calvino, and the inauguration for the first time of the Bologna Digital Media (on April 4 to 6), a space dedicated to the digital world . The first day more than 1,200 visitors come.
The Fair in fact does not know declines, indeed, the children’s publishing in 2015, according to AIE’s data (Italian Publishers Association) grew by + 7.9% with a turnover of 182 million Euros, with the sale of rights children’s book that covers more than a third of Italian publishing. And it’s really fundamental this cohesion of the different countries in one place, as mentioned by the President of BolognaFiere Federico Boni: “The comparison between the different cultures in the pavilions must be an essential moment for the formation of the children in their growth. The Fair is a multicultural community that is able to bring the value of diversity in the city, but especially of equality in diversity”.
And who better than Indonesia carries out this message of equality in diversity, which is the motto of this nation that with its 250 million inhabitants and its 17,508 islands is the fourth largest country in the world, and whose book market is growing, especially the children’s book is the top publishing category, accounting for 22% of the market thanks to its 55 million students enrolled in primary and secondary school.
Indonesia has come this year with the title “Return to the Island of Tales”, with a stand much bigger and stronger of the previous year which had debuted at the Fair under the title “17,000 Islands of Imagination”, also taking advantage of the great opportunity of being the Guest of Honour Country in the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2015, with 30 publishers present, 2,000 titles and about 70 authors among which Eka Kurniawan, Laksmi Pamuntjak and Ayu Utami, all translated into Italian. Because this the graphic theme of the stand has repeated the same used in Frankfurt with a different color, idea appreciated by many visitors. Unlike many other countries, Indonesia has not pointed to a single strong publisher but as a collective gathered in the National Book Committee, as union of Indonesia and the Ministry of Culture and Education, in the stand with Mr. Fahturahman and Mr. Sunari from Bureau of Planning and International Cooperation of MoEC. It should be also mentioned the presence of the staff of the Embassy of Indonesia in Paris in the days of the Fair. This year Indonesia has led to Bologna 12 publishers in the catalogue, 200 titles and three illustrators. Of the National Book Committee were present Dessy Sekar A. Chamdi, Ridwan Amsal and Nataresmi, and also in a double stead of the Committee members and editors: Lucya Andam Dewi (Bumi Aksara), Laura Prinsloo (Kesaint Blanc), Sari Meutia and Yuliani Liputo (Mizan), Siti Gretiani (Gramedia Pustaka Utama), and Suhindrati A. Shinta as a simple editor for Noura Books. To follow the event also came from Indonesia the journalist Iin Yumiyanti for Detik.com.
The illustrators were three:
Evelyn Ghozalli was invited by the Italian Trade Agency office in Jakarta and also as Creative Director of an independent children’s book publishing called Litara Foundation. Born in Jakarta, Evelyn made his debut in 2005 in the world of children’s literature with the “The Adventure of Little Lily” series. She is also the founder of the Indonesian children’s book illustrator circle called KELIR, born in 2009, which has over 260 members and promoter of the SCBWI Indonesian section – Society of Children’s Book Writer and Illustrators, with assets of 20 members. Until today she has illustrated more than 50 children’s stories and won some important awards, but she is very critical about illustration in Indonesia, she is not afraid to say that for her the level is still not up, there is still much to do to be competitive. This is her second time at the Fair, after that in 2014 she was named to represent Indonesia in the first major exhibition of illustrators from around the world. In Bologna she really loved the Spanish illustrator Roger Olmos, published in Italy.
Renata Owen is instead a young and talented artist in her debut with the illustrations for the book “Drue and the Tales of 5 Kingodm” of the famous writer Clara Ng. Her illustrations and drawings made during the days of the Fair mesmerized many visitors and industry insiders fascinated by her technique; her designs have also been used to illustrate the stand.
And then there’s Iwan Yuswandi, born in Bandung in 1973 and graduated from the Graphic Design Department at Art College in Bandung in 1996. His career as an illustrator for children started and continues with Mizan Publishing. The three artists performed during the Happy Hour that the Indonesian stand held on April 6 with a great success and many appreciations. In the last day of the Fair the Indonesian delegation has also made a donation of children’s books for the Bibli-os Association working with the Pediatric Clinic Gozzadini, at the St. Orsola Hospital in the paediatric emergency department.
“We are here to conquer more and more new market – says Yuliani Liputo of NBC – taking advantage, unlike of the previous year, of the happiest moment in Frankfurt: the first year has been for us the presentation, it was all still immature, but this year we should not lose this opportunity and we want to be recognized worldwide. But we know well that it’s not easy, the market is strong and very competitive, so we well know what are our strengths and our weaknesses, and be focus on tradition. Now the competition begins.” Also Laura Prinsloo confirmed the optimism: “The public’s responses are better than last year. Three titles were sold to Malaysia and Turkey and 16 others are in negotiation. The intentions for the coming year are to bring many more titles, 200 titles are not enough; and even more publishers, we have here 12 in the catalogue among the 1200 we have in Indonesia”.
In short, the market in Indonesia is huge and must be made known in every way, because the comments of all the visitors who came into the stand were the same: great atmosphere and warm hospitality, good design a really well-made lights, but maybe they need to aim more on tradition than on imitation of Western styles. All illustrators, graphics, bookseller and simple visitors said the same thing be summarized as follows: “If I come in the Indonesia stand I think ‘When happen again to me to have in my hands an Indonesian book!’, so I want to see what I don’t know, their rich tradition that in Italy does not come, I want to learn about their world”.
That’s why, along with the book “Alika – Rambut Panjang” of Dewi Rieska and illustrated by Fatimah Zahra, almost everyone has loved books more tradition-bound as “Legenda Pohon Beringin” of Murti Bunanta or “Ni Terong Kuning” of Putu Oka Sukanta and illustrated by I Ketut Nama. Because they talk about a world and culture completely unknown to Italians. But as members of the NBC and illustrators present explain, the artists of those books are already adults, while the younger Indonesian generation of illustrators are more fascinated by the Western imaginary or Asian manga.
So, summing up of this long experience, we can say that this is the challenge for the children’s publishing industry in Indonesia for next year and also one of the main issues to be addressed for its artists: how to make modern the tradition? Focus on those that are the contents and the cultural heritage of Indonesia’s long tradition and telling maintaining their originality, without copying European style, because it makes no sense to come to Europe with a Western style, Indonesia will never be competitive in this way. As well as the famous Malaysian artist Yusof Gajah said: “Satu Daerah Satu Cerita – One Country One Story”.
Indonesia must be proud of its own tradition because this is what the reading public wants to know. It’s not a coincidence that Mr. Goenawan Mohamad, Chairman of the National Organizing Committe for Indonesia at the Frankfurt Book Fair says: “In the year 1030, Mpu Kanwa, the famous poet of the Kahuripan kingdom in what today is East Java, finished his magnum opus Arjunawiwaha and announced, “I build my temple of language on my writing board”. Needless to say, the outcome is an invaluable legacy. Thanks to writers of previous eras, Indonesian today find their intellectual and artistic resources in the writing and reading that have become part of their tradition”.
See you next year! Now the competition begins.