By Zubeida Jaffer
It was an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. The car glided through the streets of Gugulethu on Mandela Day until it reached NY 22. It stopped in front of the home of Lumkile Mzukwa outside a gate that closed off a driveway with a garage behind it. There was no signage outside indicating this was Lumkile’s Book Joint but newspaper articles reported that he had created the reading room in his garage.
What a surprise when we walked through the adjacent door and into a magical space. White walls with wooden roof beams painted in bright blue provided the structure that held together the room designed for reading. Comfortable couches dotted with cushions and a teddy bear on one lined most of the three walls creating a U-shape.
In the center of the room was a large wooden table with books that appeared to be in conversation with the books on the shelves on two of the opposite walls. It had the feel of the basement of the Book Lounge in the city where book launches are often held – a cosy, warm and inviting space.
It was an emotional moment when I considered that a group of Gugulethu residents had pooled their resources to create a delightful space to encourage young readers and support further study. This was the same community that recently experienced execution-style shootings that killed seven people.
Number10Publishers had decided to reach out to this community and share the story of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke on Mandela Day. We provided soup and bread for 67 people at the reading room and in the neighbourhood and brought a variety of books to add to the already impressive array arranged on the shelves. They provided a beautiful cake with Madiba’s image imprinted on rice paper across the top. The children tucked into the soup and bread while the adults insisted that we cut the vanilla cake layered with buttercream.
If it were not for Covid we could have all sat down and enjoyed the eats together. This we promised would be in the future when we could discuss books and do readings. Two members of Lumkile’s team, Vovo Malafu and Sivuyile Makatesi were eager to arrange readings with other writers. They lived close by. Three other executive members not present were Dineo Chetsane, Thabisa Jonase and Zimkhita Pase.