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A publisher’s tale... fifty years in the making

 

As the 21st Century trundles towards middle age, the optimism that welcomed the ‘new age’ in the ‘noughties’ often appears to have been replaced with a sense of foreboding by many who claim that this ‘new age’ is beset with challenges and difficulties they believe never existed in any previous era. A preposterous analysis to folks who travailed against trials and tribulations that were no less than anything set before the contemporary era’s struggling masses.

The potential hazards of disillusionment, globalisation, social disenfranchisement, geographical dislocation, inclusion, exclusion, soulless technology, disproportionate allocation of material resources and poor examples set by heads of state, are common tropes repeated frequently throughout human history, merely disguised by linguistic variables, locale and chronology.

If there is one organisation which can safely claim that it has been there and documented that, and that there was a fresh and distinctive slant and perspective of the eternal human saga, it is Hansib Publications.

The cultural and social revolution which Britain underwent during the second half of the 20th Century has provided the backbone and bedrock upon which the Hansib ethos was founded, and the hitherto unheralded settlement of people of direct African and Asian heritage, primarily emerging from the unique cultural melting pot which percolates in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Many observers detect a thread which emphasises the centrality of the role that the Caribbean has played in the social and political dynamics of our age. Hansib’s role as curator or custodian of the legends and anecdotes which populate the 500-year Caribbean odyssey has led to the publication of biographies, memoirs, poetry and prose compilations, historical tracts, novels and even an acclaimed series of coffee table books.

 

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At its inception in 1970, Hansib Publications was the dream of Arif Ali, a Guyanese man who had no formal experience in publishing. He had settled in England and recognised among his fellow travellers and contemporaries a grandiloquence and epic sensibility which the mainstream media either deliberately ignored or simply failed to recognise at the time.

Hansib’s legacy as a campaigning publisher has few equals in Europe, let alone Britain, as victims of bigoted bureaucracy, police brutality, nazi savagery and even internecine violence found a platform and a template for resistance in the weekly newspapers later founded under the Hansib umbrella: Caribbean Times, Asian Times and African Times.

The trade union activism and academic accomplishment which Hansib lionised further emboldened folk whose positions as transport and health service personnel obscured their secret identities as super sheroes and heroes who had weathered colonial rule, fought wars on behalf of former colonisers and achieved flag independence, but still voyaged to Britain and North America in search of opportunity.

Hansib further coalesced this ever-burgeoning community fire through books and even with the Hansib Community Awards, the formerly annual celebration of excellence which undoubtedly set a template for the plethora of backslap fests which litter London’s social calendar.

The flame which was fanned by these assorted ventures abides in the content of the tomes which Hansib continues to publish. Professional wordsmiths with international reputations jostle with first-time authors within a catalogue that stands as a monument to Caribbean ingenuity and West Indian obstinacy and speaks truth to power that Caribbean nations provided the first examples of modern multi-cultural societies.

Several of the first-time authors are only ‘one-time’ authors; men and women whose vigorously articulated ‘ordinariness’ is performed in an extraordinary landscape where their normality becomes the subject of awe. Others are bitten hard by the writing bug and attempt to forge full-time careers out of their passion.

For many, the remarkable sagas that they provide us with would have been lost forever, as most other publishing houses would have adjudged that the narratives they were being offered had no commercial appeal to the wider public. Hansib Publications is happy to transform these ‘dust packets’ that others refuse, into loaves of gold which find eager recipients throughout the Caribbean diaspora.

The Hansib imprint grants its authors access to a growing network of retail outlets, both locally and internationally, having established relationships with retail giants such as Amazon, Waterstones, and WH Smith, as well as independent bookshops such as New Beacon Books and Bookmarks, not to mention the public libraries which doggedly defy central and local government threats.

Hansib Publications is proud of its reputation in providing an outlet for the many voices that remain unheard. It continues to encourage the personal narratives that are testimonies of struggle, survival and success that cannot get beyond the portals of mainstream publishers.

 

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The buzzword of diversity comes to mind when one considers that the new scramble for ‘Third World’ treasure now encompasses the ideas which emanate from the consciousness of the settler communities for best-selling books, award-garnering TV shows and million-dollar generating movies, as well as the riches which continue being drawn from the soil and lakes of their homelands.

Where Hansib continues to lead, others continue to follow. Any reason not to get on board?