Q and A with Raya Rahman, founder of Guba Publishing
Language acquisition is a process that is crucial in the initial stages of a person’s life. As suggested by linguists, it is best achieved by the age of 12, after which, the process becomes a lot more complex for children. Under such circumstances, the availability of reading materials including fun stories and colourful illustrations can be a great tool to help a bilingual child learn two languages efficiently and simultaneously. That is precisely what Guba Publishing aims to achieve. We got in touch with Raya Rahman, the founder of Guba Publishing and this is what they had to say.
Who are the people behind Guba Publishing?
I am the Founder, Editor, and CEO. I oversee and set the creative and business direction of the company and manage business operations in the US.
Inshra Russell is Co-founder and Creative Director. Inshra leads and directs the design, visuals, branding and creative content of the company and of Guba titles through various mediums (print, audio, and video).
Yasmin Rahman is Director, Bangladesh Distribution. Mrs. Rahman takes care of sales and distribution of our titles in Bangladesh.
This year we are expanding our team to include Sherezad Shafiq and Nancy Hoque in sales and marketing leadership roles in the US. Both Sherezad and Nancy are engineers by degree and have years of corporate sales and marketing experience between them.
And finally, when we started we were greatly inspired and mentored by Mustafa Monwar, an esteemed artist, puppeteer and all-rounded creative extraordinaire from Bangladesh. We have continued to seek his guidance and mentorship as we grow and publish more children's content.
How did the idea of Guba come about?
Inshra and I are childhood friends from Bangladesh, currently living in the UK and USA respectively. We founded the company in 2017 when two things happened - I was looking for resources to expose my young daughter to Bangla language and stories in a fun and appealing way and Inshra was looking for a publisher for a picture book she wrote and illustrated. When we both had a hard time finding what we were looking for, we realized that a) there was a lack of representation of diverse cultures and stories among mainstream children’s publishing in the West, and b) there were not enough high-quality Bangla themed children's stories or learning resources being published, despite Bangla being the seventh most spoken language in the world. The idea of Guba came about as a solution to both those problems. A diverse and multicultural children’s publishing company that aspires to tell stories from different perspectives through beautiful illustrations, striking design, and award-winning content. Starting with stories that are Bengali inspired, our wish is to grow and evolve to tell diverse stories from around the world.
Why did you pick the name Guba Publishing?
One of the most memorable films from our childhood is Satyajit Ray's Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, a 1969 Bengali fantasy adventure comedy film. We combined the names of Goopy and Bagha to come up with "Guba". In a secret way, we are paying homage to an incredible Bengali storyteller and his fantastic creation that gave joy to so many children. The name and its connotation also serves as an inspiration to us and a reminder as to why we started this initiative in the first place - to impact the lives of children in a positive way.
What makes you different?
We publish illustrated stories and learning resources for children that:
• are Bengali inspired - A majority of our printed titles focus on Bengali language, culture, and artistic heritage.
• celebrate cultures around the world - we make fun, educational and beautifully illustrated books and flashcards that help children learn interesting details about cultures around the world.
• are vehicles for social justice advocacy - we work in partnership with cause-driven non-profit organizations to raise funds and awareness for their causes through the power of visual storytelling. For our pilot project in this area, we are working with aid agency Save the Children to make a storybook about Rohingya children living in the largest refugee camp in the world, Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
We are certainly trying to bring a different perspective to the market. In the west, we are introducing readers to a culture, aesthetic and language of South Asia that has been underrepresented in this part of the world. In Bangladesh, we stand out in terms of quality of production and originality of content.
What do you aim to achieve through Guba Publishing? Do you have any long-term goals that you're working towards?
Our mission is two-fold. We want to preserve our heritage and promote diversity all at the same time. Ultimately, our goal is to bring diverse stories and perspectives to the mainstream consciousness.
Anything you'd like our readers to know about you?
We are working on some exciting new children's titles in 2019. Our website address is www.gubapublishing.com where more information can be found about our company. In Bangladesh, our current titles are available in major retail and book stores, notably Aarong, Unimart, Bengal Boi, Batighar and Bookworm.