Last month, iconic arts venue The Book Café quietly closed down without fanfare or farewell. Known locally and international as the soul of arts and culture for artists, its closure has hit fans and artists hard. The Book Café was a cultural venue that was known as a place for vibrant intellectual discussion, spoken word and poetry, book launches, theatre and the home of some of Zimbabwe’s most talented artists.
It was founded by war veteran and musician, Paul Brickhill and over almost twenty years became a multi-award-winning cultural and entertainment venue. Crucially, it nurtured and witnessed the blossoming of the careers of Chiwoniso Maraire, Victor Kunonga and Hope Masike among others. It also served as a meet-up place and informal office for many in the artistic community.
For weeks, social media expressed sadness at this loss. Harare had lost an important cultural venue that prioritised the talents of writers, filmmakers, poet and musicians. It was an indispensable hub for the artistic community. Its closure has left a gaping hole. Where will the artists gather, create and work?
Luckily, as one door closes, another is opening. In 15 days’ time, Harare will witness the launch of Zimbabwe’s first creative hub, Moto Republik. The brainchild of youth activists the Magamba Network, Moto Republik is a co-creative space intended for artists to come through and collaborate and foment Africa’s next new ideas. It has been billed as Southern Africa’s first creative hub. Artists, creatives, those with bright, innovative, entrepreneurial ideas, have been invited to sign up for membership packages which offer everything from rented office or desk space for start-up entities, free high-speed WIFI and other office amenities such as discounts on printing and photocopying.
Moto Republik is located at number 3 Allan Wilson Ave, Belgravia (between Second Street extension and Mazowe Street opposite Parirenyatwa Hospital). Packages are very affordable for members and range from $15 to $100 per month. The venue will also have space for workshops and training, a coffee shop that serves eats, and will eventually expand to include a performance area in phase two of its construction which is set to begin early next year – funding permitting.
The new venue has generated a lot of buzz. Comrade Fatso, aka Sam Munro is spearheading this initiative alongside fellow spoken word and hip-hop artists Outspoken aka Tongai Makawa and Upmost aka Ngonidzashe Tapiwa. They, along with other Magamba Network staff are set to occupy office space at this new venue, along with popular new media organization, 263Chat.
The organization is in the process of managing the completion of the construction of the venue as well as preparing the stage for its annual spoken word and hip hop event, the Shoko Festival in September. These are busy times indeed!
The new venue -with its many components- now has another star on its roster. Popular radio host Lorraine “Lochnation” Bgoya has been hired as the Moto Republik Community Manager. Lorraine, affectionately known as Lo, or Lochnation, is well-known as the host and producer of the Off The Wall show on ZiFm radio. The radio personality has built a career as an MC and DJ having interviewed major international celebrities like Khuli Chana, Ice- Prince, Tinashe, Estelle, M.anifest, D-Banj and The Noisettes. She is a sought-after MC. As well as being one of the MC for the Shoko Festival, Lorraine has hosted a number of high profile corporate, state and social events including the wedding of Bona Mugabe to Simba Chikore last year.
Lorraine has a passion for Zimbabwe and the immense potential of the arts and culture to contribute to the economic development of Africa. She boasts a Master’s degree in Intellectual Property and as Moto Republik Community Manager, is poised to become one of the creative sector’s leaders and strategic thinkers.
In this day and age, new media has become a critical way in which to influence and connect with people. In that regard, Lorraine hits the ground running. She has a firm presence and influence on social media. Her personal and radio show accounts have a combined following of over 8,000 followers on Twitter, over 2,000 on Facebook and over 1000 on Instagram. She sees herself as a trusted Zimbabwean taste maker. Her blog and Twitter page influence locally and in the diaspora.
We spoke to Lorraine about her new job at Moto Republik and this is what she had to say:
HZ: Congratulations on becoming Community Manager of Moto Republik. Tell us about Moto Republik. What is it?
LB: Thank you very much! I’m very excited about the opportunity to work with members of the creative community and look forward to Moto Republik’s future contributions to the sector!
Moto Republik is the first creative hub in Southern Africa. It serves as a co-creative space for artists, creative entrepreneurs & innovators, youth activists, new media practitioners and citizen journalists. Members of the community will work collaboratively to sharpen their crafts and produce the new big ideas that will push the country forward. The space will consist of a funky and fresh rooftop garden canteen for members, a co-working space for creatives made out of refurbished up-cycled shipment containers and a vibrant and eclectic event space.
HZ: Can you please tell us what your role at Moto Republik will be?
LB: As the Community Manager I’m the voice of Moto Republik. I’m responsible for advocating the brand on social networks and the community at large, typically dealing with those who haven’t heard of the organization and boosting awareness of it. My role also requires me to create an environment that encourages the intended outcome, which is collaboration among members and providing access to resources that will help them action their ideas. Other aspects of my role include member co-ordination and management, fund-raising and business development for the hub.
HZ: Why are you the ideal candidate for this job? How has your past experience prepared you for this position?
LB: Well, apart from just being plain awesome 🙂 , I have extensively worked and interacted with media, artists, arts organizations, public institutions and the public at large which has given me a good understanding of the sector and the ability to build relationships that fit in line with the hub’s goals. I have a proven record of using a wide range of channels to help drive social engagement, increase brand awareness, raise funds and maximise business opportunities from the skills I have acquired while building and managing my own personal brand and projects.
Above all, as a budding cultural entrepreneur myself, I have a deep and true passion for the development of creative industries. I understand and appreciate the need for Moto Republik in our community and am dedicated to see it produce the new big ideas that will contribute to Zimbabwe’s social and economic development.
HZ: Where did the idea of Moto Republik come from?
LB: Moto Republik came from of the need for a space for individuals working in the creative industry to meet, network and collaborate. It is brought to you by Magamba Network which has a track record for pioneering in creative development having birthed and built the fastest-growing music and arts festival in Zimbabwe, Shoko Festival; producing Zambezi News which has become internationally recognised as a leading satire show on the continent; hosting some of Harare’s leading events in hip hop, spoken word and comedy; and of course our foundation-laying work of training young citizen journalists and running Kalabash as a leading youth opinion website.
HZ: What role do you see Moto Republik playing in the creative community?
LB: Finally, individuals who work in the creative industries can gather and connect under one roof and collectively action ideas and come up with creative solutions and innovations. This is something that wasn’t available before and its absence saw initiatives with a lot of potential fall through the cracks because the right synergies and collaborations weren’t taking place. Encouraging collaboration breaks down the boundaries within the creative sector itself and as a result strengthens the industry to influence other sectors. I sincerely encourage young creatives to join Moto Republik. We have a range of flexible membership packages that creatives at all levels can benefit from and take advantage of.
HZ: With the recent closing of Book Cafe, do you see Moto Republik being the new space for artists to mingle, perform, create and network?
LB: Book Cafe was the original hub and the home of free cultural expression in Harare. Moto Republik definitely seeks to continue with and in that spirit by providing a space where artists and other members of the creative community can come, meet, perform, network and create. Our goal is to empower individuals in the creative industries, strengthen the arts and culture sector and see it play a part in moving Zimbabwe forward.
All images of Moto Republik venue by Tendisai Chigwedere