Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka advocates studying in Madagascar
They’re all smiles and she’s wearing a bright pink blouse when she sees this slender, brown-skinned woman with a backpack full of books arrive. We met only once at the International Publishing and Book Fair in Rabat (Morocco), where he exhibited in the area dedicated to African literature, where he was the guest of honor.
ActuaLitté: Elina, what led you to start your publishing house?
Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka: As I approached retirement, I couldn’t see myself stopping what had driven me part of my life: encouraging and facilitating reading, especially for the little ones. For several years I worked as a book and reading promotion officer at the National Library of Madagascar. Then, after enrolling me in a children’s book publishing training course, Claude Rabenoro slowly led me into the adventure of Tsipika publishing. I learned everything from him there.
To that extent. Like many publishers in Africa, I trained at CAFED in Tunisia. This is November 2008. Moreover, I regret that this structure, the only one in Africa, has been closed without any replacement.
Publishers and booksellers in Africa today there are few opportunities to exercise on their continent. When Claude Rabenoro left our world, I felt a great professional void. And I thought it was time to stand on my own. He would probably like to see me do it. So I started as a freelance editor.
By the way, just out of curiosity, what does Mpariaka Boky mean?
Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka (with a big smile of complicity) : Literally, it means scattered books. For me, this name is about my mission to promote books and reading everywhere.
What prompted you to write your first book?
Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka : My Story! Tita and books it’s a true story. I wrote as I lived. This is the story of my niece, who I regularly bring books to. Moreover, he slowly fell in love with reading and libraries. Originally published in Malagasy in 2009 and bilingual in 2011, this children’s album is universal and carries strong values of kindness, education and transmission.
It has been reprinted several times. This first writing experience encouraged me to continue. In my writings, I find myself in the field of youth. I write in Malagasy and although I speak French, I often translate my texts to ensure that the syntax is flawless.
What is your fondest memory as a writer?
Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka: I don’t know if it’s the prettiest, but it’s certainly one of the most striking. In 2011, the Association La Réunion des Livres invited me to the Montreuil Youth Book Fair. It was a big event for me. First of all, I felt that the islands of the Indian Ocean were connected, and for us islanders, that was a unifying feeling, and it’s a good feeling.
Then in Montreuil I discovered the world of children’s books and their great creativity. I was very proud to have my book presented at the booth of La Reunion, where I was the guest of honor.
What is the message that is close to your heart and that you want to convey in your books?
Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka: Conservation of our natural heritage and all related environmental issues. Madagascar has extraordinary biodiversity and we need to educate children to protect it. I translated an album published in Morocco about waste management into Malagasy. I don’t want to see our nature polluted with plastic that blows in the wind and poisons the fish in the oceans. But there is another topic under my heart: reading comprehension.
This album you mentioned, The lesson of frogsis also a beautiful story of solidarity and friendship?
Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka: Oh yes! Above all, this is a meeting of two passionate women, two editors, two people who speak from the heart. When I met Amina Hachimi Alaoui (Yanbow el Kitab publications, during my mentoring course in Morocco), I discovered everything she was doing to promote reading, even in small villages. He truly embodies the concept of carrying books and bringing them to life for those who don’t have access to them.
He touched me. Bilingual (French-Malagasy) I wanted to adapt The lesson of frogs. Therefore, Amina made me an offer according to her generosity. He told me that I give you the rights, but you agree to give away 100 copies of this album to kids who normally wouldn’t have access to it. I liked the solidarity approach, the generous person and the album that evokes this waste should be taken care of. Our collaboration is successful, and in 2023 I will release another Yanbow Al Kitab album, which will mark the purchase of my second rights. This is a personal initiative, South-South, that means a lot to both of us.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a freelance editor?
Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka: My main concern is the financing of new titles. Indeed, I have to finance everything with my own funds. The books are then stored in bookstores in Madagascar. They can stay there for several months, sometimes even some booksellers are not ready to pay and do not declare their sales. So, in reality, I have to wait a very long time before I recover enough to finance my next title to be published.
When an organization supports us, it completely changes the game and everything becomes faster and more motivating. I would love to publish more, but I just can’t afford it, especially since printing costs are getting more and more expensive.
if i tell you” close your eyes and imagine a big book promotion operation in Madagascar what do you think
Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka: This is a dream that comes up regularly and I have many ideas. For 2023, one that is close to my heart would be to celebrate the International Day of African Writers. It may seem surprising to your readers, but we know very little about it today. But we are Africans and I would like us to approach everything what is said, written and done in this great continent. Because we could create more connections among book experts to distribute our texts.
There is definitely something to be invented. And the Malagasy public must be made aware of all this. I would also like to take part in the first inter-island reading caravan in the Indian Ocean in 2023 so that all my children’s titles can travel from island to island.
How do you feel about the book market in Madagascar?
Lalao-Elina Razanadriaka: I feel that there is a renewed interest in reading, especially in the provinces. People enjoy discovering books. You have to leave the big cities. Neighborhood libraries play a key role in encouraging reading. I want to convey strong ideas to the Malagasy people.
When the booksellers told me We would be happy if everyone was like you », so I am happy to be able to humbly but enthusiastically continue to develop my youth catalogue. I’ve gained a lot of readers and my books are selling fairly quickly, which makes me happy and very proud, both as a children’s author and as a publisher.
Photo credit: Agnès Debiage/ActuaLitté – CC BY SA 2.0