December 20, 2013

Dominique Gillerot © CEC

Dominique Gillerot, managing director of belgian NGO Coopération Education Culture, is the coordinator of the beneficiary project Littafcar.  This project aims to contribute to improving the status of francophone African and Caribbean literary heritage. The project works to coordinate a network of four cultural centres, to establish a dedicated fund in each of the libraries of the centres, as well as create a web platform to provide distance training activities, and establishing a communication policy on literary heritage. The impact of digital technologies on the distribution, promotion and the accessibility of African and Caribbean literature is the issue at the heart of this project. On 28 October 2013, the Espace Césaire was inaugurated at the Maison de la Francité in Brussels. Dominique Gillerot details the progress of Littafcar project.

Inauguration de l'Espace Aimé Césaire, le 28 octobre 2013, à la Maison de la Francité à Bruxelles © SACP

The Espace Césaire inaugurated on 28th October 2013. What is the purpose of this space? How does it fit into the LITTAFCAR project?

The Espace Césaire was born out of a merger of the libraries of the NGO Coopération Education Culture (CEC, and leader of the LITTAFCAR project) and the Maison de la Francité in Brussels. This area dedicated to francophone cultures includes special literary and culture funds for Africa and the Caribbean, as well as their diasporas (the CEC funds), as well as works dedicated to the French language, to its history, its variations, and its presence around the world (the Maison de la Francité funds). This multimedia forum also includes reviews and DVDs.

CEC is a culture sector NGO that has, for over 35 years, focused on the promotion and distribution of contemporary African and Caribbean culture and literature through its specialised library. The aim is to promote the cultural riches of these regions and, through this cultural bias, promote respect for the variations and different cultural identities that exist. CEC thus aims to contribute to a genuine intercultural dialogue, as well as the development of new attitudes.

The Maison de la Francité is an association that ensures the promotion of the French language and international francophony with an open, modern spirit.

In merging these two funds, the name Aimé Césaire came naturally. The identity of Aimé Césaire, as a figure of both historical and literary renown, serves as the perfect knot to tie together the ends that our organisations pursue.

The name “Espace Césaire” allows us to evoke French literary expressionism, as well as an international and multicultural francophony, opening these literary works up the world, creative writing, the fight against stereotypes, culture diversity, intellectual activism, and the role these pieces play in understanding the social, economic, political, and cultural realities of ACP countries. Césaire, as a co-founder of the negritude movement, also serves as the incarnation of the crossroads of the literary worlds of Africa, the Caribbean, and beyond.

Today, the Espace Césaire is a part of the LITTAFCAR.ORG network. This is a network of cultural centres worldwide which share a mission to promote African and Caribbean literature. This network, set up by CEC, now also includes three other centres in Benin, Rwana, and Haiti, each with their own libraries; the Monique Calixte and Katherine Dunham libraries of FOKAL, the Nicéphore Soglo library of the Artisttik Africa centre, and the recently named Madiba space of ISHYO. All of these libraries are named after people who had a particular role in advancing arts and culture as an essential component of the development of human society. In addition to this, the tribute to Nelson Mandela through the dedicated of the ISHYO library provides the opportunity to celebrate the man, as well as his universal message.

What have been the achievements of the LITTAFCAR project to date?

The first stage of the project was reinforcing the libraries of the three project partner centres in order to ensure that each could become a point of reference on the literature of their respective sub-region, with the CEC and Espace Césaire serving as the lynchpin for their promotion in Europe. The project thus allowed us to cover some broad literary areas, including the Caribbean, West Africa, Central Africa, and East Africa. The centres were therefore able to make some pretty serious acquisitions in terms of works. These acquisitions, carried out in collaboration with the libraries of each the countries, will continue during the rest of the project.

Today, the libraries are properly equipped to receive readers, give them access to a digital library and a librarian to help them find the books recommended. The catalogues of each of the libraries will soon also be available on line.

Moreover, the centres have done a stock take of their written, audio, and audio-visual archives linked to their literature (interviews with authors, expositions on literary movements, lectures, etc.), which will also be published on the LITTAFCAR.ORG site, the development of which is set to end in 2013 for a launch at the start of 2014.

The project has also placed an emphasis on the development of a sort of living network, relying on the collaboration of the different partners to animate the website, as well as through an exchange of best practices in the promotion of literature between the project partners. This is why we launched the project with a meeting between the four partners in Brussels, which allowed us to kick off this collaboration right from the very start.

What are going to be the highlights of the project in 2014?

A new meeting between the partners and a press conference will be organised in Brussels during the first quarter to launch the site. Throughout 2014, the centres will develop new content for publication on the site.

In parallel, the project also foresees the development of on-line training modules on African and Caribbean literature. FOKAL, which has already developed on-line training course for its librarian network, will host all of the partners in Haiti in the framework of a technical support session and the first training on the basis of the on-line modules. They will then be tested by each of the centres, by a professional literary audience (librarians, libraries, teachers, literature students, etc.).

The creation of literary training modules will also be accompanied by the creation of a digital library of the flagship documents/works/texts of the literary works.

How did the support of the ACPCultures+ Programme help you in the realisation of your project?

The support of the ACPCultures+ Programme, first and foremost, allowed us to create a network of extremely dynamic culture centres through which the project was able to promote itself. The exchange on everyone’s roles and responsibilities which ensued and the sharing of resources and content had a multiplier effect on everyone. Working as a network also provided a greater opportunity to include literary professionals and carry out a pivotal discussion on the evolution of digital technology in the sector, specifically for the development of the publication sector and the access to books in the ACP countries.

In addition to this, the project is able to come to the aid of other projects evolving in parallel. An example would be the “Intersections” collection initiated by CEC in 2012. This collection aimed to raise awareness of African and Caribbean literary figures, and piqued the curiousity of youths, writers, and readers in general regarding lesser known literary avenues. The first item in this collection was dedicated to Jacques Stephen Alexis. It includes contributions from Haitian and Belgian writers, young Haitians and Belgians, new works from the author, and archived documents, thanks to the collaboration of Florence Alexis, the author’s daughter. The “Intersections” collection relies on the LITTAFCAR.ORG collection. Each item is developed from contributions from at least two network partners. More specifically, the second will rely on ISHYO, our Rwandan partner, in order to develop a special edition called “Rwanda, 20 years later” – Looking backwards to move forwards – The place of the arts and literature in retrospection/projection. Putting forward the 10 African authors who participated in the “Rwanda: writing for memory’s sake” project, the edition will also include contributions from writers and youths from the other countries.

The partners have also been approached by the AILF to collaborate on the book caravans. ISHYO is currently a stakeholder of the book caravan going between Burundi, Rwanda, and Eastern DRC. In 2014, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the initiative, several caravans will be organised, with at least one in Benin, for which the cooperation of Artisttik Africa has already been sort. This one will take place in October 2014.

All of the partners are, presently, solicited on a regular basis for new collaborations in their literary fields.



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