When I agreed to read the first piece I’d written for Rowayat Gemeza, I hadn’t expected just what would happen. Gemeza is the children’s magazine of Rowayat, a brilliant Egyptian journal of literature published annually. I’d written a piece about the Arab wise fool Goha, titled: Mirror, Mirror on the wall, Who is the funniest of them all? Goha, of course!
Two volunteers were chosen from the audience to act out the part of Goha as I read his story, as translated by Denys Johnson. They dressed the part in scarves picked up in Siwa and mimed the character into life. Who knew, centuries later, Goha would take the form of such lovely young ladies?
In late 2014, Rowayat hosted a Literary Festival around the launch of their magazine, and I was privileged enough to be invited to give a talk on Children’s Literature. Basically, I reviewed trends and the development in Egyptian children’s literature. Feel free to listen to it as a podcast, here!
Beverley Naido (second from right) at BISC with EBBY Board Members Balsam Saad (first on left) and Dina Elabd (second from left)
If you don’t know her already, Beverley Naidoo is an award winning South African children’s author whose work has become a favorite with children in South Africa and worldwide. An elderly woman, she has spent her life bravely researching and questioning in Africa, to the benefit of its youth.
When we attended her talk, Naidoo began by explaining the difficulty political situation in South Africa and how her books often reflected that. ‘Death of an Idealist’ particularly reflected the anti-apartheid movement growing in Britain when the main character sent a letter to his mother saying, “I’m standing against the whole social order.” Naidoo explained how a character could be used as a ‘trigger’ who could throw light on a historic event.
Using her books to educate and empower children, this talk was a very enlightening and pleasurable one for EBBY. We hope to see Naidoo in Egypt again soon.
My story won the Rowayat Second Student Fiction Competition. Read it, published in Issue 2 of Rowayat: “The Palm’s Poem”
“Everything about the tone is deliberate and highly controlled: it’s very nicely composed, and it reads with the clarity and force of parable without ever sounding didactic- the highest compliment I can give to writing of this kind.” (Words from one of the Judges)