The Book Café
Harare ~ Zimbabwe
The Book Café (launched 1997, Harare) is a vibrant platform for free cultural expression in a country suffering decades of political and economic upheavals, repressive laws, stringent censorship and a lack of cultural infrastructure. Operating under the umbrella of the Pamberi Trust, with creative director Paul Brickhill (1958-2014), managing director Steve Khosa and a dedicated team of staff, this unassuming café and bar presents more than 600 cultural events a year to enthusiastic capacity audiences of people from all racial and cultural groups and all sectors of Zimbabwean society. Its open door policy welcomes all genres and disciplines as well as new fusions and experiments. Live performances encompass spoken word, poetry slams, stand-up comedy, literary readings, drama and all types of music, from traditional mbira, blues and jazz to hip hop and rap. It has developed strong links with the African music scene, frequently organising exchanges and hosting visiting musicians including stars such as Abdullah Ibrahim. Many of its performers, like Chiwoniso Maraire, have gone on to develop international careers. The Book Café runs artistic workshops and practical training programmes throughout the year, and provides access to rehearsal space and equipment. It emphasises gender equality and youth development, running special initiatives such as FLAME (Female Literary, Arts and Music Enterprise) to promote women in the arts, and BOCAPA (Book Café Academy of Performing Arts) open-mic sessions which are well-subscribed opportunities for new talent. Home to Zimbabwe’s thriving movement of protest poets, the Book Café is renowned for debates on current issues such as land justice or journalistic ethics, and for staging often controversial performances. The Book Café is awarded for its exemplary support of culture and development in Zimbabwe, for the diversity, quality and wide reaching impact of its activities, for stimulating creativity and fostering aspiring young talent, and for its tenacity and commitment in upholding freedom of expression in a difficult context.