NATIONAL Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) spokesperson Catherine Mthombeni yesterday described the closure of Book Café due to financial challenges as a serious blow to the culture industry in Zimbabwe.
BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
Mthombeni called on government and local authorities – which are tasked with running community halls – to invest in such infrastructure and ensure artistes had decent platforms on which to express their talents.
“The closure of this most vibrant venue (Book Café) is a serious blow to the arts and culture sector in Zimbabwe and the nation at large,” she said.
“Most current Zimbabwean artists have in one way or the other benefited from Book Café’s activities which included live musical shows, poetry, stand-up comedy, literary readings, crafts, discussions and film screenings.”
Book Café – which can be credited for the rise of many entertainers among them poets, musicians and comedians – was closed on Monday amid a ballooning debt amassed over the past several years.
Mthombeni said there was a possibility for NACZ to engage the Book Café management to find how they could help.
“NACZ has always been engaging Harare City Council and indeed the local authorities in Zimbabwe to avail venues and community halls to the arts entrepreneur and organisations for rehearsal and performances.
“The council remains hopeful that our request for establishment of National Arts Centre in Zimbabwe preferably in Harare will receive its due attention. Book Café was actually playing the role of a national arts centre in Harare,” she said.
Pamberi Trust, which was established as a natural extension of Book Cafe’s arts development platform, also bemoaned the closure of the arts hub.
Pamberi Trust’s project activities have been focused around workshops and events staged at Book Café,” said the Trust.
“Sadly Book Café has had to bow to sustained economic pressure and has closed its doors. We are saddened by such a development.”
This is the second time Book Café to close since its inception in 1997 as an expansion of Paul Brickhill’s independent bookshop called Grassroots Books, which was set up in 1983 at Five Avenue Shopping Centre in the capital.
The arts hub once closed in December 2011 before reopening in March 2012 along Samora Machel Avenue.
Tomas Lutuli Brickhill who took over the running of the business from his late father and founder said: “I have decided to take a step back in order to re-strategise and restructure the business.
“It was a difficult decision to close the Samora Machel venue, but if Book Café is to have any place in the future of Zimbabwe’s Arts and Culture scene, I believe that our current course of action is unavoidable.”
Jibilika Dance Trust founder Plot Mhako said the closure of the joint was the saddest development on the local art scene.
He said over the past 11 months, Book Café has provided them with free space and equipment to run their monthly Jibilika Cypher which afforded dancers a chance to showcase their skills.
“I remain hopeful that the joint will re-open soon,” he said.
Comedian Doc Vikela said the closure of Book Café was a sad development not for the artistes only, but for the sector at large urging relevant stakeholders to open another venue for comedians.
“Comedy was born and given a platform at Book Café and its closure is a major blow for both upcoming and renowned comedians. It was at this venue that I and Simba the Comic King, established Simuka Comedy, which became the first recurrent stand-up comedy night in the country,” Doc Vikela said.
“What is painful is that Book Café closed at a time when we thought comedy was on the rise and the joint had become our prime home. We wish they will be something done to reopen the hub.”