Colourful African prints, photos of South African heroes on the wall, hand-made book shelves, privacy from the outside world and a breeze of soothing fresh air coming in as you’re sitting comfortably, listening to the sounds of Afro-soul music and reading a book.
That is the feel Afro-Zwanaka Book Cafe gives to its visitors. Intimacy, literature, experiential learning and educational stories from different walks of life, is what Sunday afternoon was about for me.
Lefoko Book Club, which is all about the word, hosted one of its story telling sessions, featuring four self published authors, at the Soshanguve local Book Cafe, Afro-Zwanaka and what was planned to be a usual book session, became a life changing experience for everyone in attendance.
The Block AA located book cafe was first opened in 2001 and is the brain child of Frelimo Mnisi, a local admirer of literature.
“When I started my plan I was to open a coffee shop but I realised it wouldn’t attract the locals and at that time, poetry was coming out and that’s when poets and musicians came in and held sessions and it became that space,” Frelimo Mnisi said.
Mr Mnisi realised that he needed to incite the love for books in youth to save them from lack of reading. He said he started reading his first book at a very late stage in life. To his shock, he had realised that some of the books he was reading were part of his high school curriculum.
“This place is open to everyone who needs it. It’s more of a community centre, it’s not a business,” he said.
The very bubbly and extroverted Itumeleng Motuba, started the Lehoko Book Club out of her love for books and poetry from an early age and made Afro-Zwanaka her second home. She drew inspiration and the idea to start a book club from her father and her love for creative art.
“I grew up reading a lot. I understood the beauty and the intercity of books, how you can live curiously through someone else’s eyes. I hate the stereotype that black people can’t read. My father is not educated but he loves books and now has a huge collection of books,” Itumeleng said.
It was an afternoon of laughter, with a sense of belonging and deep rooted story telling from the four authors, motivational speakers and life coaches for the audience.
One of the attendants, Manti Maifadi was the first author to share her journey into writing her first children’s book. Mrs Maifadi resides in Pretoria East and spends time with her husband and children on their very own vegetable farm outside Centurion, Pretoria.
“I’m a Sotho born woman and I wanted my children to know their language, not just English. It is important that they speak their mother tongue and excel in it,” she said.