Tribute to our late friend and partner Paul Brickhill, Director of Pamberi Trust and Book Cafe, Harare
On behalf of Austria-Zimbabwe Friendship Association I would like to add our deepest condolences and sorrow at learning the sad news of our friend and partner Paul's passing on 3rd October in Johannesburg.
In mid August, after eight days in intensive care and being diagnosed with cancer he was still determined to live and fight on, as he wrote then: "I feel myself utterly blessed, and in many ways too; this extraordinary, rich life, an African life, ... I fight on. A luta continua! African struggles, emancipation and life itself!" Sadly he has lost this fight but his vision and legacy lives on.
Just five month ago we met Paul in Harare at the successful start of our joint Kunzwana # 1 trans-cultural exchange project which has been his brainchild from the outset, as he wrote in mid August 2012: "We recall here the initial inspiration to build on cutting-edge ideas and open-minded approach of Keith (Goddard) in explorations of traditional music and crossovers".
And Paul, a musician himself, sent us his thoughtful reflections after the first phase of Kunzwana # 1 at the end of May:
"Musical explorations, outside of a musician’s normal style, expectation or comfort zones, are the most difficult and challenging to harness, and then the most rewarding and revealing... Music is always searching for that intangible; it’s soul, suggested but never captured; that is its journey, but never the destination; there are endless landscapes to conjure. That is music, and when it reaches a destination, it tends to lie down and might then have a little sleep, only dreaming of its journey. ..And so with Kunzwana # 1; it was always premised on 'an unstated meeting place between the past and the future', unthinkable, unknowable and never defined by any destination except to dare itself to undertake a musical journey and invite an audience, at times, to accompany it. It will never reach its destination, its true vision is to transcend that. It has begun a journey, a cascade of voices and sounds, at once resonant, rhythmic and yet quite discordant, questioning, which we dedicate in its courage and fullness to one Keith Goddard, who with his spiritual force in a tiny frame, opened a crack in a closed door and invited us all to have a peak what lies “beyond”. Kunzwana # 1 has already raised emotions, asked questions, had its minor setbacks, its applause and left its audiences in a little bit of wonder, what next? When I listen to live music, I watch faces of an audience, so I can say without hesitation, “a little bit of wonder”. For this reason, we say keep going and from time to time, allow us – the audience, the listener – to venture inside what might lie beyond. We never know what we discover and our only expectation is that it is reminds us of the possibility of awe. It is and should be a humbling experience for the musicians. Keep going!"
Yes, Paul, "That is music, and when it reaches a destination, it tends to lie down and might then have a little sleep, only dreaming of its journey."
May his soul rest in peace! Thanks for the human kindness, friendship, inspiration and encouragement to celebrate African music and life. And to listen to each other - Kunzwana! We dedicate the upcoming Kunzwana # 1 documentary CD to Paul Brickhill and his legacy. And we promise to keep going and to strive for his vision of a different and better world.
We offer our sincerest condolences to all of you, the Brickhill family, the Book Cafe team and the artist community of Zimbabwe.
DEATH ANNOUNCEMENT – PAUL ROGER BRICKHILL
By Jeremy Brickhill
Book Café proprietor and liberation war veteran Paul Brickhill has died aged 56. He was diagnosed with cancer in July this year and passed away on 3 October in Johannesburg. Comrade Brickhill was born in 1958 and grew up in Harare during the period in which the liberation war was intensifying rapidly. He refused to serve in the Rhodesian army and escaped from the country to join the liberation struggle in 1976. He joined ZAPU in exile and immediately volunteered to serve in ZPRA, in whose ranks his elder brother, Jeremy, was already serving. During his service in ZPRA intelligence he undertook many dangerous undercover operations and was a fearless revolutionary cadre.
Following independence in 1980 he began his life-long career promoting culture in Zimbabwe, founding the country’s first progressive bookshop – Grassroots Books – in 1981 and subsequently its associated sister publishing company, Anvil Press. Together with his first wife, Pat Brickhill, he played a leading role in developing Zimbabwean publishing and bookselling. He was elected Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association in 1991 and served on the Board of the Zimbabwean International Book Fair for the following ten years. Together with colleagues in other African countries he co-founded the two major African publishing organisations - the African Publishers Network (APNET) and the Pan-African Booksellers Association.
At the same time, Paul pursued his own personal journey as a musician, establishing a series of bands during the 1980’s, including the popular Solidarity Band, which featured several young musicians who were destined to find fame as the Bhundu Boys. Paul’s saxophone travelled across the whole country in those years, most usually to be found in the poorer working class township pubs and clubs. In later years he and legendary jazz guitarist David Ndoro founded Luck Street Blues, playing almost 1000 live shows in the years 1995-2005.
Paul, and his brother Jeremy, also played an important role during these years supporting ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe operations launched from Zimbabwe, hosting ANC cadres and providing logistical support to the South African liberation struggle. Their activities led to the car bomb attack on Jeremy Brickhill by apartheid agents in 1987. Apartheid agents later confessed that they had been confused by the identities and tactics of the two brothers and were not sure which one to attack first.
In 1997 Paul expanded the original Grassroots Books concept into a multi-dimensional artistic vision involving music, theatre, film, literature, poetry, art and craft and thus was born the world famous Book Café. Since then the Book Café has nurtured and promoted music and the arts under Paul Brickhill’s inspired leadership. Together with its sister organisation, Pamberi Trust, the Book Café has hosted over ten thousand shows and events, launched dozens of new artists, promoted Zimbabwean and African music, literature and poetry, provided a venue for topical and political dialogue and become a much loved and iconic beacon of artistic freedom and excellence.
In 2011 Paul Brickhill received a NAMA Award for “services to the arts” and in 2012 he was awarded a Prince Klaus Award by the Government of the Netherlands in recognition of his role in establishing the Book Café and his own life-long commitment to promoting the arts. Just last week he received the Artwatch Africa Lifetime Achievement Award on the opening night of the Shoko Festival in Harare.
Paul is survived by his brother, fellow war veteran Jeremy Brickhill, his first wife Pat and his second wife Jennifer, and his four children Tomas, Liam, Amy and Declan.