Book Cafe regrets the cancellation of the performance by Sakaki Mango, Japanese Afro-Asian maestro, with Netsayi as the support act on Thursday 31 May; and the disappointment for members of the public. All necessary steps had been taken, together with co-sponsors the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, to produce the show. The band undertook a wonderful series of workshops for younger Zimbabwean musicians in Murewha and Harare. No problems were foreseen.
The cancellation was an outcome of complications arising from Book Cafe zoning (at the new location, in respect of its operations), which is the first step for all operating licences according to current regulations. Book Cafe made application on 20 February 2012, and did not expect problems or delays since the premises had been a restaurant for 16 years previously. A response arrived on 1 June 2012. Under the circumstances, since Book Cafe envisaged upgrade anyway it was decided to complete this while the zoning and all down-stream operating license issues are quickly and finally resolved.
It is worth noting the background to such complications. Book Cafe is an Arts Centre, registered under our National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and internationally recognised as a model of excellence as an Arts Centre. Book Cafe and its artists provide a service to the arts community and cultural audiences of Harare and beyond. The Mayor of Harare, His Worship Masunda has championed the positioning Harare as a “cultural capital” that nurtures cultural assets (such as Book Cafe); since such Arts Centres are extremely difficult and costly to establish, and generally at risk in the economic climate. Cultural entities applaud these sentiments.
However, there is no such criteria as “Arts Centre” existing, to our knowledge, in a system of compliances nor is contribution to the arts recognised. “Culture” is not practically defined as an “activity”. Artistic enterprise is not recognised as such but effectively, in terms of activity, down-graded to rank status of “bar”, “restaurant”, “shop” and so forth. It is the ultimate irony, in terms of national development, to “define” Book Cafe as a “bar”. Bars do not register with the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe nor undertake arts development like music workshops, cultural exchanges, book launches and film screenings. Book Cafe asks for cooperation from our City authorities in mutual efforts to provide a safe cultural outlets and services to the community”.