The Windybrow Arts Centre will become Johannesburg’s newest hub for the advancement of Pan-African literature. The Windybrow Heritage House became a theatre in the late 1980s, however, when the surrounding neighbourhoods started to degenerate, the theatre started to struggle. In 2005, the Department of Arts and Culture declared the Windybrow Theatre a cultural institution and the new Windybrow Theatre was officially re-launched on 4 May 2006. The theatre today aims to facilitate cultural development in the arts and is known as the Windybrow Centre for the Arts. In a ground-breaking partnership between the Market Theatre Foundation and Exclusive Books, the Windybrow Arts Centre opened its doors to the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Lounge for adults and The Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room for children on 18 July 2017. ‘The Market Theatre Foundation is at the forefront of producing and presenting cutting-edge stories that have an authentic African artistic voice and which is inclusive of the rich tapestry of African diversity. When Exclusive Books launched their Pan-African series we immediately envisioned a dynamic partnership with Exclusive Books to make stories and literature from the African continent and the diaspora become more accessible to a wider audience,’ says Ismail Mahomed, CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation.
The Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Lounge and Reading Room which will be housed in the 121-year old Windybrow Heritage House will be home to over 2 000 book titles. ‘Sponsoring space at the Windybrow Arts Centre for the purpose of creating a reading room that can cater to the local community is a meaningful contribution for the Exclusive Books Group,’ explains Benjamin Trisk, CEO of Exclusive Books. ‘It is particularly important in contemporary South Africa to give back to the life of Hillbrow because Hillbrow was the genesis for the first Exclusive Books when it opened its doors in 1951. Over 120 young people come to the Windybrow Arts Centre every day to engage in our inspiring cultural educational programming. We have 24 Market Theatre Laboratory alumni who teach at inner-city schools in Johannesburg. The launch of the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room for children will be an excellent resource. It gives us the scope to promote a reading culture that will be inspiring, relevant and resonant with the African experiences of our constituency at the Windybrow Arts Centre,’ adds Mahomed. A monthly book club programme for children and a series of forums for adults focusing on African authors and on the titles available in the Reading Lounge will be hosted at the Windybrow Arts Centre. ‘We are pleased that we can create a safe space for children and adults alike to have access to books, to care for them, and to treasure the stories that the books contain,’ Trisk concludes.