Indigo Youth Book Fair 2008

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Indigo Youth Book Fair 2008 in Pusan, South Korea. I am going to run through the events of the last few days just to get some ideas down. It deserves a much more detailed blog than this one but I want just to get the overall trip details down and mention some of the things that interested me. This is not a fair review of the whole event.

IYBF ran from the 20-24th August and does include a book fair, hosted at Indigo Sowon, but is actually a small conference held to raise awareness amongst Korean youth about the issues facing the planet and we can do about them. The books chosen to be part of the fair, no it is not a typical commercial book fair, convey important messages about the challenges that society is facing. These range from personal battles to how we can work together to save our environment, the one thing that binds all people together, and everything in between.

The conference speakers spent time talking to the youth about these issues and discussing how to be meaningful participants in working towards a better world for all.

Day 0

Upon arrival I was taken to dinner, a sign of great things to come :). On the way we stopped at Indigo Sowon, the youth book store run by the Indigo team. The book store consists of two columns of rooms connected by narrow passages on the outside. The one column contains the book and meeting rooms while the other contains the kitchens, toilets and stairs. This detachment gives the main rooms an air of tranquility, in my opinion. There is a small central quad surrounded on all sides by the building, that has a tree growing in it. This is the new building for the their book store.

I was then taken to the building that they used to use which has now been converted into a restaurant run by volunteers. This is where we had a huge dinner waiting for us, prepared by the supporters of Indigo, a team of mothers who are also teachers.

Day 1 - 20th August 2008

I slept in, it's a long way from SA and I didn't sleep much on the plane, only managing to get up after noon. I took a walk along the beach and then met Santosh Shah and Madhav Ghimire for lunch. Both of them work on Today's Youth Asia.

Anna Portnoy and her students, Jordan and Alisha, also put in an appearance at lunch and I got to meet them. More about everyone later.

Indigo Sowon Tour

We went on a tour of the bookstore, in daylight this time. The fair had just opened and the specially selected books were out on display. Many of the books were written by attendees of the book fair and had been translated into Korean.

At this point I was convinced that Indigo need to be introduced to Pambazuka News as it is similar to Today's Youth Asia magazine but we never had time to discuss it properly. Hopefully this note will ensure that it happens.

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony began with a description of the travels of Indigo+ing. In the year leading up to IYBF 2008 members of the Indigo team visited all the inhabited continents, meeting with inspiring, interesting and creative people. Their adventures have been written up into a book, currently available only in Korean.

There were speeches by:

  • Yong-june Park
  • Aram Hur
  • Yang Kim, President, Busan Mutual Savings Bank
  • Prof. Brian Palmer

These were followed by a huge buffet.

Day 2 - 21st August 2008

The day started off with Arron Wood, Brian Palmer and I joining Yong-june Park for an interview with a reporter from a Busan Daily newspaper with national distribution. The interview is available, but only in Korean.

A huge, awesome lunch followed at which we learnt that Arron Wood was definitely dominating the eating contest. All the meals we had were epic and our hosts really took good care of us. After lunch we got down to business.

Valerie Zenatti

The first speaker for IYBF2008 was Valerie Zenatti, talking about her book "Message in a Bottle". The panelists for her talk sat on stage behind a large table. Only when her talk was finished did I realise that there were many bottles with messages in them spread across the table.

The messages in these bottles were questions that had been prepared for Valerie by Aram's students. The most amazing part of the whole exercise was how much effort children as young as 14 had put into their questions, providing background information, citing numerous sources and really questioning complex issues.

I should point out that these students had put in vast amounts of additional work to be there, all of it extra-curricular. The required reading list for them was large and definitely not normal teen reading, combining this with the fact that curricular activities in South Korea can require 16+ hour days makes it all the more remarkable.

The take-away message from Valerie's talk for me was you can't know who or how your actions will affect people but they will. This is good to bear in mind when embarking on development type activities - don't try to prescribe your impact.

Alvaro Restrepo

Alvaro explained the background, purpose and philosophy behind the dance school, El Colegio del Cuerpo, that he has created with Marie France Delieuvin. The school has given students from very poor backgrounds an outlet for their passion, increased self-respect and also allowed them to work on programs to help uplift their communities.

We were treated to a short performance before his talk began. One of the most impressive things is how the school has managed to effectively engage the public in their public performances.

IYBF 2008 Meeting

After dinner we had a meeting with the IYBF team. It is very impressive to hear their first hand stories and insights into the adventures that had led them to hosting IYBF 2008 and it was, quite rightly, an emotional event for them.

The big question that the IYBF team are grappling with is "What next?" and they are looking for insight into how they can achieve more to help solve the world's problems.

Day 3 - 22nd August 2008

Arron Wood

The first talk of the day was by Arron Wood from Firestarter. As I understand it, Firestarter have developed a non-prescriptive, outcomes based methodology for kids teaching kids which is extremely effective. The project achieves financial sustainability through event coordination rather than selling their educational methodology - this really resonates with our ideas for Siyavula related businesses - business models should be based on providing a true value-added service rather than locking down basic content.

With the help of Ruby and Josh, two students involved with Firestarter in Melbourne, Arron emphasised the importance of the environment and that is the one thing we all have to share. The youth need to be aware of this as it is vital for their future.

I am going to blog about Firestarter in more detail in future as I am convinced that it is worth doing a detailed evaluation of bringing this idea to South Africa.

Mark Horner - yours truly :)

I presented the Siyavula project and how I believe that the key to sustainable solutions to problems in SA cannot be achieved without improvements in education and how openness can lead to more support, creativity, innovation, cost-effectiveness and empowerment in the education arena.

Anna Lappe

Anna presented on the impact of food on sustainable solutions for a better world. Relating how the far-reaching impact of "developments" like high-fructose corn syrup can do so much damage to the world.

Fast food chains have managed to convince millions of people that tomatoes, lettuce and onions are the be-all and end-all of fresh produce. She gave us hope with a story of how a farm had been built in an impoverished area within a city's limits. Resulting in the addition of much fresh produce, beyond tomatoes, lettuce and onions, to the diets of those living in the area.

I recommend reading the book Hope's Edge if you are interested in where we need to go and how corporates can make a difference.

Poetry/Performance evening

We were treated to a wonderful display of music, poetry and opera at an outdoor amphitheatre. To make the evening much more dramatic, it rained the entire time and we even had a dash of thunder and lightning. I only have a couple of photos from after the event. It wasn't cold and the Indigo team organised ponchos and umbrellas for everyone. The event was awesome fun! A couple of pics of the aftermath:

Day 4 - 23rd August 2008

Olivier Fruchaud

As a student Olivier teamed up with a couple of friends and they undertook to drive around the world. In this adventure they planned to discover sustainable, local, solutions for environmental issues across the planet. All of their findings are documented in their book Des idees plein la terre. Olivier took us through the planning of the project, how they acquired funding and implemented the project.

We were also treated to some great photographs from their journey. I only recognised one from Accra, Ghana. Seems I have much travelling still to do ;)

Shantosh Shah

Santosh Shah, as mentioned above, works on bringing important issues to the attention of the youth in Nepal. Santosh spoke to us about the challenges of bridging the gap between the 1st and developing worlds, how important it is to try to understand the circumstances, perspectives and social structures properly.

Group Discussion

After watching a number of short videos we broke away into small discussion groups with the students. We discussed the themes and event portrayed in the videos. The highlight for me was the comparison drawn between making educational resources openly available and Ghandi teaching the Indians to make salt. :)

El Colegio del Cuerpo

We ended the day with a performance by El Colegio del Cuerpo.

Day 5 - 24th August 2008

The day was available for sightseeing activities and we had the closing ceremony in the evening. The highlight was a discussion between Brian Palmer, social anthropologist, and Young-ahn Kang, philosopher. The discussion focused on the notion of self and the other and touched on the complexity of implementing the practice "after you".


I had a great time, met some great projects that I intend to collaborate with and, most importantly, made many new friends.


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