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Massmart launches second Urban Bookshelf in Alexandra, creating a platform for emerging artists

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To commemorate Nelson Mandela Month, today Massmart launched its second Urban Bookshelf in Alexandra, Johannesburg. The project, which is aimed at increasing access to books in under-served communities, is the third in a series of planned free miniature libraries across Johannesburg. Massmart plans to launch a further library in Alexandra this year, bringing the total to three in the community and four in Johannesburg.

Massmart Sustainability Executive, Alexander Haw says: “Our focus is on community engagement through targeted support of vulnerable and underserved communities in close proximity to urban centres. We believe that we can have the biggest impact by focusing on one area at a time. This year we have prioritised Alexandra. Not only does it have a rich history as one of South Africa’s oldest townships but its vibrant and engaged community make it a great fit for the Massmart Urban Bookshelf project which is centred on community trust. Next year we will continue rolling out the project to other communities in Gauteng.”

In addition to being aimed at increasing access to books in communities, the bookshelves have also become a vehicle to showcase emerging artists. Since the first library was launched in July 2017, Massmart has collaborated with a local artist in each community. The first Urban Bookshelf in Phefeni Recreation Centre in Soweto features illustrations by renowned graffiti artist Rasik Green aka Mr Ekse. The second is located in Altrec Recreation Centre in Alexandra and has etching by Sifiso Gumede, an Alexandra-born artist whose work explores the notion of township education and the lack of resources and infrastructure to meet the education needs of the youth.

For the latest installment at Three Square Sports Ground, Massmart has launched a competition on Alex FM that seeks an emerging graffiti artist that is born and/or resides in Alexandra to enhance the structure with their designs. The winning artist will receive a R10 000 cash prize and will have their work displayed on the Urban Bookshelf, providing them with a permanent and accessible outdoor exhibition in their very own community.

Massmart Brand and Corporate Communication Executive, Phumzile Siboza says: “Every Massmart Urban Bookshelf has been an interactive process involving the recreation centres, the architects, the community and artists. And since they are in public sites, the bookshelves are for everyone and are a form of collective community expression. With this competition our aim is to harness the power and beauty of art to improve on the structure while creating an experience that includes and enhances the community. We believe in nurturing talent and creating opportunities for the communities we operate in to prosper so this competition is one of the many ways that we are doing this.”

The durably constructed library can store between 450 and 500 books and is tailored to children, young adults and adults; carrying books across eight genres, namely: African Fiction, General Fiction, Non-Fiction, Current Affairs & Politics, Law & Business, Self Help & Motivation.
Massmart has partnered with major publishers to ensure the library remains well stocked with a diverse range of reading material, allowing the community to borrow and return books at their leisure.

Siboza concludes: “Massmart envisions the libraries as centres for individuals to gather, learn, explore and interact. But more than anything these libraries are based on community and trust. There is no staff policing you, no membership cards or fines. The idea is to take a book, read it at your own leisure and return it when you’re done. Based on feedback from the previous Massmart Urban Bookshelves most people return the books.”


For Media Enquiries

Refilwe Boikanyo
Massmart Communication Manager
011 797 0170/


About Massmart

Massmart is a managed portfolio of four divisions, each focused on high volume, low margin, low-cost distribution of mainly branded consumer goods for cash, through 419 stores in 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Massmart’s corporate social investments are wide ranging and include feeding schemes, literacy programmes to supporting the arts. We also try, wherever possible, to identify opportunities to leverage our retail capabilities to optimize the impact of our social upliftment activities.

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