Empowering local voices through contextual literature

In the heart of Francophone Africa in Côte d’Ivoire, a pastor and editor named Stéphane Bilé is championing the cause of contextual literature through his role at LivresHippo, a publishing initiative of Langham Literature. Stéphane’s journey into editorial work began in 2015 when he was presented with an opportunity by his former professor, Dr Solomon Andria, to delve into the world of literature.

A pastor for more than 20 years, Stéphane’s passion for writing and literature was the driving force behind his foray into editorial work. He now serves as an editor at LivresHippo, a platform designed to give a voice to French-speaking African Christians through books.

The crucial role of literature for African Christians

“Books are very important, especially in the 21st century,” Stéphane shares. “[Christian] Literature allows us to understand God and discover Jesus Christ through the Scriptures.” The significance of literature, particularly in the context of faith, is undeniable. As the “book people,” Christians in Africa find resonance with their faith as they delve into the written word.

LivresHippo, Stéphane explains, goes beyond traditional publishing models. Unlike other publishing houses that may overlook Christian literature, LivresHippo actively seeks to provide a platform for African Christian writers to express themselves, particularly on themes that might be neglected by other publishing houses.

“What LivresHippo did was actually to create an avenue which will help African writers to write not just about anything, but to also focus on writing about Christian literature,” Stéphane says. “What LivresHippo did is to take things a little bit further by taking into account some of the themes which are not processed or written about in those different publishing houses.”

Addressing the question of why develop African authors instead of translating existing works, Stéphane points out that local authors bring a unique perspective that resonates with the African context. He emphasises the importance of literature that reflects the realities of Africa, allowing readers to connect deeply with the content.

The need for local authors and scholars

Stéphane says the significance of developing African authors cannot be understated.

“Having African writers explore these topics helps us understand the reality here in Africa,” he explains. “It makes it easy for us to relate directly to the content, using familiar proverbs and vocabulary, bridging the gap between Bible realities and our personal experiences. Some of the vocabulary that is used is quite common and it makes it easy for us to understand the Bible realities with respect to our personal realities here.”

One of the groundbreaking projects was the Africa Bible Commentary, produced 15 years ago and currently under revision for an updated version. Stéphane has seen the impact of that particular piece of literature time and time again.

“I can clearly see how it has impacted the Church, especially here in Côte d’Ivoire,” he says. “Sometimes I would go to a specific area and see that people are using it, and it is greatly impacting the lives of people.”

Thanks for the contextual work of Langham

Stéphane praises Langham’s approach in its contextual publishing work. He expresses gratitude for the way Langham establishes an institutional structure run by Africans that responds to the needs of the continent. 

“Langham takes into account the dignity of the African people,” Stéphane explains. “It is not always the case with some of the institutions, and I really do appreciate that.”

Langham plays a crucial role in empowering African voices through contextual publishing. By providing a platform for local authors to express their unique perspectives, Langham contributes to the development of literature that resonates with the African context, fostering a deeper understanding of faith and empowering the next generation to bring positive change to the continent.

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