Pamberi Trust ~ Book Cafe (Harare, Zimbabwe) runs one of the largest performing arts programs in Southern Africa. 900 concerts, performances, workshops and public discussions are organised annually in two venues and with artists in all disciplines. 1200 artists are involved each year in projects and performances, and 350 of derive their livelihood from our activities.
Pamberi Trust is not large or well-resourced. Its strength lies in innovation, hard work and strategic use of limited resources. It has an excellent relationship with artists. It runs the most prominent female (180 artists) and youth (about 500 artists) arts projects in the country. It has very strong programs in Freedom of Expression, and permits no censorship in its venues.
Its two venues are humble, but vibrant and full of spirit. Since the economy of Zimbabwe collapsed in 2008 amidst repression and crisis, the venues remain almost self-sufficient and provide all basic means for staging and organising 900 events a year, with audience facilities.
Zimbabweans have lived through over a decade of crisis: amidst state repression and censorship, in 2005 the government embarked on ‘Operation Murambatsvina’ (Clean up the Filth) – a politically motivated operation that destroyed makeshift homes and business across the country leaving 700,000 homeless and destitute. Hyperinflation and collapse of banking, economic and social structures were accompanied in 2008 by the most violent elections in Zimbabwe’s history that brought fear onto the streets in all parts of the country. These developments have hit artists extremely hard, and resulted in widespread poverty and suffering.
The turnover from venues is applied to development needs and outcomes. The venues provide staging, rehearsal space, sound equipment, workshop and training facilities, office space, services, support staff, and a democratic café space that is the “artists meeting place” in Zimbabwe, free of charge to artists. All this is achieved at a fraction of the cost (for Pamberi Trust) that it would need if these staging and workshop facilities were to be hired externally.
Book Cafe has become the Harare ‘cultural centre’ – a meeting place for hundreds of artists and human rights activists daily. The venues are uniquely associated with democratic values and freedom of expression, arguably the most important physical ‘democratic space’ in Zimbabwe.
Book Cafe is a laureate of 2011 Prince Claus Awards, amongst the most prestigious global awards in culture. It achieved this award for its work in “Freedom of Expression”.
We would appreciate it if you could help our artists by supporting our sound system upgrade, and replacing the old marquee (covering) on Book Cafe venue, which leaks in the rainy season. We do not have the funds to achieve this fully, and around 700 musicians a year depend on this.