AMAKHOSI Cultural Centre founder Cont Mhlanga has described the late Book Café owner Paul Brickhill as “an iconic beacon of artistic expression”.
Brickhill, a Zipra intelligence officer during the liberation war, died on Friday after a battle with thyroid cancer.
Mhlanga, writing on the Amakhosi Cultural Centre Facebook page, said the death of the arts promoter was a big blow for the industry.
“We are at a loss at Amakhosi. I am at a loss. My comrade has fallen,” he said.
The renowned playwright recounted a conversation he had with Brickhill in Tanzania about the future of the arts.
Mhlanga wrote: “Many years ago when Paul and I set in a little café in Arusha town in Tanzania when we were establishing the African Publishers’ Network and redefining the role of the ‘book’ in decolonising the African mind, Paul asked me; ‘Cont when shall we stop this fighting?’
“This was a big question, so I took my time to answer him and then after a long sip of my drink I said: ‘Sotsha likaMdala. A liberation war comes in stages and ours is no different’.”
He added: “We have just come out of the political liberation war and we are now in the cultural liberation war.
“We are yet to go into the economic liberation war, then into the technology liberation war before arriving at the poverty liberation war.
“All these stages of liberation Paul require ‘the book’ and the book requires the ‘writer’ and the writer requires a publishing platform.
“Our liberation wars are far from over comrade and it is likely you will die in the trenches.”
He nodded and lifted his glass and said: “Cheers Comrade, Aluta Continua” and we laughed one of our longest laughs together!
“To us then it was just a joke, but I realise today that it wasn’t a joke after all.
“It was real life, real action. Yesterday (Friday) Paul fell still in the trenches of liberating our people. We have lost a comrade, an iconic beacon of artistic expression, freedom and excellence.”
The Book Café in Harare first opened its doors in 1997.