Promoting the power of words

By Latoya Newman Time of article published Jul 4, 2020

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LIFESTYLE - “Until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

This is the African proverb that Anivesh Singh, a Durban book publisher, said best described his passion for the printed word - more specifically for those stories that kept local histories alive.

“This encapsulates why I have a passion for publishing the stories that the mainstream will ignore,” said Singh.

His company, Micromega Publications, published works such as the most recently launched Made in Chatsworth by Kiru Naidoo.

“We published the Casbah Family Recipe Book, Awkward Energy by Matt Vend, Usulu by Zakhele Mazibuko, Chasing of the Wind by Elwyn Bonhomme, Martha by Ossie Essack, The Colours of Life by Yunus Amir and many more. The lockdown has meant we haven’t published anything new in months, but there’s a lot in the pipeline,” said Singh.

“There’s a hunger and a market for these stories. The system is such that distribution through normal channels is made untenable in traditional bookshops, so we peddle our books in supermarkets, pharmacies, spice shops and online.”

Singh said his passion for books started early. He was in Stanger and his family moved to Durban when he was 16. The 45-year-old currently lives in Rosehill, near Riverside.

“I’ve been gathering the tools of this trade from the time I was in my teens,” he said.

“Micromega was established in 2010. Initially, the main focus of the company was producing and supplying occupational health and safety content to corporates. This activity continues to date, but over the last three years we’ve branched out to publish heritage books as well.

“These are books by and for previously disadvantaged communities, which the mainstream publishers will generally ignore. Over the last three years we have published about 24 books by local writers.”

Singh said he originally aspired to be a writer.

“But since I don’t have the patience, I decided to become a publisher instead.”

His love for books also led to him opening a bookstore.

“Books have the power to stimulate thought, creativity and critical thinking. Books have enormous therapeutic value as well. Immersing your mind in a story is great for mental health as it gives the mind some respite from everyday stress.

“If we want our youth to generate new ideas and to re-invent old ideas, we’ve got to encourage them to read. It’s one of the few ways to learn while you relax,” Singh said.

“About four years ago, I had a bookshop called HashtagBooks in Reservoir Hills. When I closed that bookshop, we had a lot of stock and I thought that we could use that stock to set up vulnerable people as booksellers.”

That was the seed that would flourish into what is today a successful project to aid the homeless in earning an income, and another book-related passion fuelled by Singh.

“This is how Booksellers of Mzansi came to be. Later, we partnered with the Denis Hurley Centre and the project now helps 14 vulnerable or homeless people to earn a dignified living through book sales. Over the lockdown, we sold the booksellers’ stock online.

“We managed to raise more than R16000 for the booksellers, to ensure that the momentum they had built before the lockdown was not broken by Covid-19. The main objective of the project is to empower the homeless and vulnerable people to earn a dignified living.”

The project collects donated or pre-loved books and hands these to the booksellers to sell.

“The project does have a few great spin-offs. It helps to promote a reading culture in Durban, which is a Unesco City of Literature, and it recycles donated or pre-loved books and makes these accessible and cheap.”

For more information, or to buy books from the Booksellers of Mzansi, visit www.madeinchatsworth.co.za

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