Swedish Astrid Lindgren prize for African group

An association that promotes reading among children has become the first African group to win the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world's largest prize for children's and young people's literature.

Swedish Astrid Lindgren prize for African group
Books used by the winning PRAESA group. Photo: TT

The prize, named after the Swedish creator of the adventurous schoolgirl character Pippi Longstocking, went to the Cape Town-based Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA).

The group encourages children and young people to read for enjoyment, to build up their self-esteem and help them connect to their native languages through reading and stories.

"Through innovative reading and storytelling projects, PRAESA brings people together and brings literature in multiple languages alive," the jury said.

"PRAESA's outstanding work shows the world the crucial role of books and stories in creating rich, full lives for our children and young people."

At a June 1st ceremony in Stockholm the group will receive a cheque for five million kronor ($581,000, 536,000 euros), which organisers claim is the world's largest prize for children's and young people's literature.

Since 1992 PRAESA has produced a series of books in various African languages, organised national reading clubs and arranged story telling and theatrical events in Cape Town and other parts of Africa.

Last year it won the Asahi Reading Promotion Award, from the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).

Previous prize winners include Kitty Crowther of Belgium, Maurice Sendak of the United States and Philip Pullman of Britain.

The prize has previously been awarded to two other groups promoting children's access to books: the Tamer Institute which works with Palestinian refugees, and Banco del Libro which brings books to children in remote Venezuelan villages.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was created by the Swedish government after Lindgren's death in January 2002.


Russia smears Pippi Longstocking author as Nazi in propaganda posters

Russia has launched a poster campaign in Moscow featuring ostensibly pro-Nazi quotes from the Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, the film-maker Ingmar Bergman, and the Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad. "We are against Nazism, but they are not," the poster reads.

Russia smears Pippi Longstocking author as Nazi in propaganda posters

Oscar Jonsson, a researcher at the Swedish Defence University, tweeted out a picture of photograph of a Moscow bus stop carrying the propaganda poster, which has the word ‘they’ written in the colours of the Swedish flag. 

Another poster accuses King Gustaf V of being a Nazi. 

Jonsson told The Local he was certain that the posters were genuine, but suspected that they were intended for Swedish consumption, as at least one of them had been placed outside the Swedish Embassy in Moscow. 

“They’re more of a provocation to Sweden than something for the Russian people,” he said. 

Mikael Östlund, communication chief at Sweden’s Psychological Defence Agency, argued the opposite case, that the posters were primarily designed to justify the war in Ukraine to Russia’s own population. 

“Accusing western countries of Nazism is a part of the justification for their own war,” he said. “This is probably directed towards its own population. This has been one of the justifications for the war in Ukraine as well.” 

Others even suggested they might even be a preparation for military action .

“Are there any limits to these guys? Or are they preparing a ‘denazifying’ operation against Sweden as well?” tweeted Sweden’s former prime minister Carl Bildt

The Swedish foreign ministry said it was aware of the posters, but refused to comment. 

“We have no intention of engaging in a public polemic with the Russian organisation ‘Our Victory’, which is reportedly behind these posters,” a spokesperson told TT.  “In Russia, smears about ‘Nazism’ have been used repeatedly against countries and individuals who are critical of Russia’s actions.” 

At a press conference in Germany, Sweden’s prime minister called the campaign “completely unacceptable”. 

“But it is important to say already right now that Sweden could become the target of an influence campaign by foreign powers,” she said. “It’s important that all Swedes, and not least those of you in journalism, recognise that there is a risk that foreign powers will try to influence the Swedish debate climate.”