Our guest today is author and publisher Mr. Ibrahim Idris, owner of ADAL Publishing, a company based in Denver, Colorado. ADAL publishes a wide genre of Eritrea-related books and materials, offering readers a great collection to choose from. Extending over 20 years, Mr. Ibrahim’s work has helped to disseminate Eritrea’s traditional and cultural identity far and wide. Excitingly, he now looks forward to formal cooperation with the local HIDRI Publishing Company to further share Eritrea with the world.
Mr. Ibrahim would you introduce yourself please?
My name is Ibrahim Idris, and I am stationed in Denver, Colorado. I have been there for almost fourteen years. I am mainly a freelance journalist, but I also write short stories and translate.
Over time, I’ve recognized that we have a serious problem in publishing; there is a vacuum in that area when it comes to the diaspora. Hence, in 2014, I had a vision of writing but in order to do that, I said let me do the frame and that frame was to find a publishing company. Through my research, I found a trend called “self-publishing”; after exploring all the things I needed to do so as a self-publisher, I decided to start my own company…the procedure in the US is very simple and it doesn’t cost you much.
Financially, it was an obstacle for me to have a license, but in establishing the company, I relied on the experiences of others. One was the Red Sea publisher, one of the successful organizations of the African-American institutions; although it started as a one man show, it had a vision and closed the existing gap within African books in the US. Thinking about my country, my religion, and writers from around this region, I saw that this is an area to contribute in and work with.
Would you tell me about the first book you published?
The first book I published was for the patriot Mahmoud Kidan. It was originally in Arabic and I offered translate it to Tigrigna. We printed 120 books, which were all sold in a matter of 15 minutes at a conference.
It is titled, Eritrea’s Plot in the Horn of Africa.
What pushed you to create ADAL, and what kind of obstacles did you face in beginning your company?
One thing I can assure you is the necessity of publishing, second is strengthen a weaknesses by creating a tool or a frame, these two factors are main in having a publishing company, since we need to help in the movement of writing I found its very important to have a publishing company. My wife was the first ground to support my vision, she is the one always behind me and asks “When are you going to write?” and I would say “I will write if I have a publishing company that can help me.”Logistics were the main problem. Mainly being far from the region I wanted to work with, although with technology and social media, I think I have solved that problem somewhat. However, I still I feel am a little detached… and that’s why I came to Eritrea – to explore for myself, Eritrean writers and the Eritrean reality.
Another obstacle is translation; we don’t have professional translators and one of ADAL’s principal goals is to create dialogue. My observations of Eritrean literature are that it has a kind of a monologue instead of a dialogue.
The reason is you are writing in one language and your audience is a certain other group. By enriching translation and looking for talented people to translate, I think I’ll be able to tackle the second obstacle. After coming to Eritrea, I found a lot of people who speak three languages or more having that capacity, so I think there is great hope.
What was the purpose of introducing ADAL to HIDRI Publishing, and what are your thoughts about the conference you conducted with them?
First of all, in Eritrea there is one publishing company, which is HIDRI…you have to deal with that fact. However, HIDRI was very open-minded; they welcomed me and gave me a chance to share my experiences with them.
We found several things that we could remedy; for example, distribution and providing a platform for aspiring writers and translators.
How does ADAL compete within the challenging environment posed by large private institutions and corporations?
Luckily I have a targeted audience; I am not competing with American companies because they have their own audience. I find it easier to compete in other areas where people need an Eritrean, African or Horn of Africa publisher. Secondly, I am a self-publisher, so I don’t have other investments, other than my room and my equipment.
Additionally, I rely on digital communication for reviewing, receiving, and announcing information about books.
Finance can also be challenging in publishing and distributing, however I can say that ADAL is in good shape.
Generally, it seems that the current generation lacks readers and writers; what do you think?
I was listening to a Tigrigna program on Eri-TV, which featured a guest named Sied Salih. He’s a writer and translator who I would later meet and talk to. His appearance showed that he had a deep understanding on the issues of writing. While he is one example, I’ve met many others, so I’d suggest that are many within the current generation who understand the value of reading, writing and translation.
How would you assess the recognition of Eritrea among Americans?
I have seen perceptible changes. People buy the books, ask me what’s next, and consult with me on ideas in relation to translation or new manuscripts. They also criticize what I write, which is a very important for a writer and publisher.
There is an Arabic proverb that says, “The best companion in existence is a book.” As a publisher, writer and journalist how do you react to that?
The saying is completely correct. If you find yourself in a lonely zone, a book provides a window to interact with the world.
What are ADAL’s future plans?
I am looking to broaden into audio books and also to digitalize all my published books. I also plan to make the ADAL website more dynamic and interactive for readers, buyers, and viewers.
Being a young publishing company, I think I have to think twice to see where I can fit in and with whom I can work. Optimistically, there is a demand for publishing, so I’m hardly thinking of stopping my journey.
What is your plan to make Eritrean books more available internationally?
One thing I am advocating for is to make Eritrean books more available within international book fairs
Do you think books can play a great role in showcasing Eritrea’s culture and tradition abroad?
Definitely! There is a useful example to mention, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is a Colombian writer who made his country famous, and his works have been translated into so many languages. I personally read his works in both English and Arabic. Through his name and work, people recognise Colombia and can envision his nation’s history.
Eritreans have so many stories to be told, we have talented people taking the lead, and the intellectual community of Eritrea has a vision in writing their story or conveying that message. Factors like these will make Eritrea well-known globally…through one writer, if not many.
What message would you give to young, aspiring Eritrean writers?
Reading and writing are a fundamental part of education, so I would encourage the creation of book clubs within schools, areas of work, and the community. I’d also encourage them to develop good reading and writing habits. It is not only an individual responsibility but the responsibility of the community, nation and institutions.
Thank you for your time!