Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tripod Media Exhibition, Dar es Salaam

On June 24-25, I attended an educational and careers exhibition at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar es Salaam. It was organized by Tripod Media, a company with a broad portfolio ranging from event promotion to video production. I do not remember how I came across the information about this event, but I saw it in the USA. I looked for more information and discovered Tripod Media and its founder, Dorothy Kipeja.

Tripod Media did a great job of organizing and advertizing the event. A number of companies and organizations participated. I got to know several. One of these was the Tanzania House of Talents (THT). I had heard about this organization but had not had the opportunity to meet them. I visited their booth, where they had live music and talked with their coordinator and got their brochure.

I saw school children who visited the the THT booth coming on stage to sing some songs. This was a pleasant thing to witness. It reminded me of a similar thing I witnessed on Tanzanian TV a few weeks earlier: children joined artist Mrisho Mpoto in singing his songs as he was performing in the street. What a remarkable display of synergy between artist and audience.

On this day, I also got to know the Proactive Employment Solutions, which describes itself as “a private labour recruitment agency based in Dar es Salaam.” I also got to know the Tanzania Schools Collection, an enterprise that seeks to list and profile educational institutions in Tanzania, with the intention of extending the coverage to East Africa and beyond.

I took this opportunity to present Africonexion, my cultural consulting company to the Tanzanian public. I had a booth where I displayed my books and talked with people about the work of this company and its vision for the future, which includes establishing itself in Tanzania, East Africa and elsewhere.

I was impressed by the diversity of the people who did come: different races, ages, and backgrounds. I hope that in the future more people will attend such events, including government officials, professionals, graduates, entrepreneurs and job seekers.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Amazing Vuvuzela

As the 2010 World Cup drew near, South Africa got more and more in the limelight. I was in the USA, watching, as a debate emerged about the vuvuzela, a plastic horn blown by South African fans during soccer matches. Some people called for the banning of the vuvuzela from the World Cup, arguing that they could not stand the noise of the vuvuzela. I was amused, knowing that the Africans would not succumb to such demands. I recalled what I had written in my Africans and Americans book about how Africans differ from Americans in their attitude to loud music. Africans want their music loud.As it turned out, the vuvuzela not only reigned during the World Cup but it also spread to various parts of the world. I was in Tanzania during the World Cup, and I was not surprised to see that the vuvuzela had arrived in my country.People who had traveled to South Africa had brought the vuvuzela to Tanzania, and it was spreading rapidly. It features at soccer matches. I saw the vuvuzela on giant billboards around the country.
At Kimara in Dar es Salaam, I saw a small place called Vuvuzela Hair Salon. As an icon, the vuvuzela was quickly becoming a feature of popular culture, speech and jokes.During the World Cup, I read that people from Europe and elsewhere who traveled to South Africa for the World Cup took the vuvuzela home as a souvenir. Not everyone likes the vuvuzela, though. A few days ago, I read a report about efforts to ban the vuvuzela from a sporting event in New Zealand.

On July 11, I was in a bar called Sawai Grand, in the Sinza area of Dar es Salaam. It was packed with soccer fans. We were watching the final of the World Cup between Holland and Spain. That day, I saw the vuvuzela for the first time. The bar owner, a friend of mine, had brought it from South Africa. He handed that vuvuzela to me. I held it and blew it, again and again.
If you think the vuvuzela makes too much noise in a soccer stadium, wait until you hear one in a packed pub. Blowing that vuvuzela I felt its magic and knew that the vuvuzela was here to stay and conquer the world.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

At Dar es Salaam University: Talking About Online Publishing

I have visited the University of Dar es Salaam several times this month and last month. On July 8, at the initiative of Professor Saida Othman, I met with a group of colleagues, in Professor Issa Shivji's office, to share my experience with online publishing.I enjoyed meeting these colleagues whom I have known from the early seventies, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Dar es Salaam.

I began by noting how technological advances are affecting and transforming various aspects of our lives, including business, academic work, and publishing. The internet is changing the way we do things, and traditional publishing is reeling under its impact, being forced to adapt or suffer. Costs and other factors render traditional publishing increasingly difficult, if not unsustainable.

I spoke about how I ventured into self-publishing, how I prepared and published my first book, Matengo Folktales, using print on demand technology. I talked about how, with the rapid evolution of online publishing, I explored alternative outlets and finally discovered lulu.com, where I have been publishing my latest books. I displayed two books I have published that way: Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, and CHANGAMOTO: Insha za Jamii.

In an interactive manner, we covered many topics, including manuscript preparation, copyright, marketing, bookselling and royalties. We mentioned some pros and cons of self-publishing. The technology enables virtually everyone to publish their work, leading to concerns about lack of quality control. Many in the academic world worry about the absence of peer review of such publications.

We noted the irony that not all peer-reviewed books are better than self-published ones. I find it interesting that educators in colleges and universities recommend and use my self-published books.

We discussed how online publishing might work for University of Dar es Salaam journals and how local readers would access those journals. Certain types of online publishing and bookselling renders books inaccessible to people without the means for online shopping.

I also mentioned the e-book phenomenon. I said that I have only recently entered the e-book world by turning my lulu.com books into e-books. I explained that the e-book requires an e-book reader, also known as an e reader. I find the idea of keeping hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books in a portable e-book reader attractive..We had a wonderful conversation for about two hours, exploring the opportunities, modalities, and challenges of online publishing. I write about these topics in my blogs and have also shared my ideas in CHANGAMOTO.