In full bloom

In cel­e­bra­tion of the 10th year of her com­pany, African Per­spec­tives Pub­lish­ing, the pi­o­neer­ing for­mer model and com­mu­ni­ca­tions en­tre­pre­neur Rose Fran­cis chats to about what it’s taken to suc­ceed in a books in­dus­try still mostly run by white men

CityPress - - Voices -

We meet in a quiet cor­ner of News Cafe at New­town Junc­tion Mall, where Rose Fran­cis ar­rives a few min­utes be­fore I do. I am a bit anx­ious be­cause, while I was in­volved in the book in­dus­try for years be­fore I joined the team at City Press, it would be the first time that I would be meet­ing a black fe­male pub­lish­ing busi­ness owner – which says some­thing about the in­dus­try. To­day Thabiso Mahlape heads the Black­Bird Books im­print at Ja­cana, but there are far too few Rose Fran­cises in the mostly white-male in­dus­try.

As I en­ter the restau­rant, I see her name pop up on my phone screen. I walk up to the tall and slen­der lady, who greets me with a hand­shake and then a friendly hug as she tow­ers over me. We sit, and I no­tice that her black blazer has a green metal badge in the shape of the con­ti­nent, with the word ‘Africa’ in­scribed in gold.

Clearly, she wears her pride on her lapel. Af­ter all, her com­pany is called African Per­spec­tives Pub­lish­ing and it turns 10 this year. I want to know ev­ery­thing about the for­mi­da­ble Fran­cis. called Spir­its, which was about the liquor in­dus­try. It was dis­trib­uted to she­beens, bars, bot­tle stores and lounges.

“I learnt the ba­sics of pub­lish­ing through that. I sold the com­pany and started African Per­spec­tives 10 years ago, at the end of 2005.”

On start­ing up her com­pany, Fran­cis ac­quired the dis­tri­bu­tion rights to her first book, Cap­i­tal­ist Nig­ger by Chika Onyeani, the fa­mously con­tro­ver­sial ti­tle that spoke of black con­sumerism.

Her next move was to se­cure the rights for iconic and de­fi­ant poet and au­thor Don Mat­tera’s work. Mat­tera had re­tired by then. “I brought him out of re­tire­ment for two books,” she says with a twin­kle in her eye. “One was a po­etry col­lec­tion called Aza­nian Love Songs, and the other, called Mem­ory is the Weapon, talks about Sophi­a­town and the

forced re­movals set against the back­drop of his per­sonal life.” As the years have passed, Fran­cis has steadily ex­panded her busi­ness and her mar­ket. “I was not in­ter­ested solely in South African ti­tles. I started trav­el­ling ex­ten­sively. Zanz­ibar was the first coun­try on the con­ti­nent that I had trav­elled to – in my per­sonal ca­pac­ity and also to check out the au­then­tic­ity of a book that I was dis­tribut­ing, called Te­haka’s Jour­ney by Mur­ray McMil­lan, which was set in Zanz­ibar. “It re­ally in­trigued me, so I thought, ‘Why not go out and see how au­then­tic this book re­ally is?’ “I fell in love with Zanz­ibar im­me­di­ately. I have been go­ing there every year for about eight years. “To date, I have trav­elled to 39 coun­tries on the con­ti­nent. I have even set up an of­fice in Ghana and my books are also dis­trib­uted in Dar es Salaam.”

PHOTO: HARSHEEN PA­TEL

BEAUTY AND BRAINS Rose Fran­cis be­lieves the fu­ture of South African pub­lish­ing looks bright

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