Underground library needs support

Books piled up at the underground library. (Gustav Butlex, M&G)

Books piled up at the underground library. (Gustav Butlex, M&G)

The Mail & Guardian is supporting the underground library – a revolutionary initiative started by 10 youngsters from Mohlakeng who collectively call themselves Mohlakeng Youth Movement (MYM).

The library, a tiny one-room house with precast walls and a corrugated iron ceiling, was started after its chairperson Neo Mathetsa realised most young people of school going age in his community could not read. 

He then turned his one-roomed house, hidden behind his mother’s four-room house, into a library.  

His house has become a space where those who cannot read are taught to read and those who can read are taught to perform pieces of work, whether through poetry recitals or acting.

Mathetsa and the other nine members went house-to-house, school-to-school and church-to-church collecting all kinds of reading material. 

To make reading fun, Mathesta – a Market Theatre performance art student – decided to turn the books the youth read into performance pieces. This happens outside his little house on the concrete floor, which transforms into a theatre stage on Friday where children and young people of all ages come and perform.

The underground library needs all the books it can get.
It also needs expertise and skills from skilled professionals who can help these youngsters turn the movement into a network. 

These book activists also need funding and sponsorships. As more books flood into the one-roomed library-cum-house-cum-performance-art-stage, we need innovative ideas of how to expand the space and create a mobile library where the children, their older siblings and their parents can meet and read.

The underground library will be launched on March 21, but the library will go beyond the launch date and needs your help.

Use this hashtag: #undergroundbooks to communicate with us as well as organisation on Twitter.

For more information contact

  • Thuletho Zwane: ThulethoZ@mg.co.za, 011 250 7354, 081 328 5264 
  • Sebabatso Mosamo: SebabatsoM@mg.co.za, 011 250 7492, 082 483 6216

If you would like to donate books to the underground library please deliver them to the M&G offices at Grosvenor Corner, 195 Jan Smuts Avenue, corner of 7th Avenue, Rosebank. 

An official launch of the library has been planned for March 21 at the Mohlakeng Arts Hall.

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