Anivesh Singh – literary ambassador and founder of the Booksellers of Mzansi initiative and Durban’s monthly Book Fair – was this month awarded the prestigious Barry Wood Award by the Denis Hurley Centre. The award acknowledges outstanding services and celebrates Singh’s unwavering commitment to his community through literature and social upliftment. As director of Micromega Publishing, Singh believes in the power of words to tell untold stories. He is passionate about local narratives and publishes work that mainstream publishers might ignore:
“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.”
One of his latest projects is the publication of Kiru Naidoo’s book Made in Chatsworth. This archival book explores the people, places, and stories of Chatsworth township and includes black and white photographs. In the 1950s, Indian residents of Durban were forcibly moved to the area. An excerpt from Naidoo’s book reads:
“Let’s not romanticise poverty. Perhaps we did not notice the things we lacked. We had limited wants, limited needs but we had enough. To use Neville Alexander’s words, enough is a feast. The real feast in Chatsworth was life.”
Street lit and lockdown
Apart from giving a platform to local writers to share their stories, Singh, alongside Kiru Naidoo, spearheaded Durban’s Street Lit project that seeks to empower homeless communities by helping them to sell books. This not only helps people to earn a living but also upskills them in the realm of entrepreneurship. After their bookstore, Hashtagbooks closed four years ago, and he was left with excess stock, he realised it could be used to uplift community members, all the while promoting a culture of reading in the city.
While lockdown was tough for the vendors, Singh and his colleagues managed to raise some funds for the vendors and created a platform where they could sell their books online. During the tough lockdown, he also ensured that they got enough donations to afford shelter and food. He shared:
“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.”
Raymond Perrier of the Denis Hurley Centre highlighted Singh’s commitment to his community and honoured his generosity and resourcefulness during the precarious lockdown period. He also praised Singh for his continued commitment to “all things literary”, noting his contribution to Durban’s accolade as a Unesco City of Literature.
Singh is a true example of how we can use our passion to uplift the community. Be sure to support the local vendors if you’re in need of a new book!