Almost three years ago, inspired by the anarchist infoshops, radical social centers and autonomous spaces that have popped up around the world over the last few decades, two of us opened the first iteration of bolo'bolo in Muizenberg, Cape Town. This humble initial experiment lasted just under a year and took the form of a vegan cafe with a couple of shelves of provocative literature and the occasional screening.
It was also the home of an inspiring, turbulent and occasionally emotionally exhausting reading group that gathered once a week to passionately explore anarchist ideas and practices, to reflect on our individual experiences of life in contemporary South Africa and to nurture and challenge each other as best we could. From the reading group emerged the bolo'bolo collective and from the collective emerged our current space at 76 Lower Main Rd., Observatory, where we have been situated for close to two years.
While only two of the original four members remain, almost thirty more anarchists and anarcho-curious people have passed through the collective in this time, some of them staying only a week or two, others defiantly waving the black flag for a year or more. All of them have helped grow our beautiful, idealistic, messy, contradictory project, freely sharing their time, their unique skills and insights and, when emergency struck, the little money they had, without calculation and without any expectation of reward.
It's hard to quantify what we've accomplished over these few years, and perhaps we shouldn't try, but it brings us great joy to think about how many books (a couple of them self-created), we've shared. We've published three issues of our Incendiary Times newspaper too, and printed untold mountains of zines, stickers and badges. Thousands of litres of soy milk later, we've even come close to perfecting the vegan cappuccino. Much more importantly, however, we've become a hub for activism in Cape Town, screening free weekly documentaries and art films, hosting workshops and open discussions, sharing our space with like-minded groups and fielding, with as much patience and compassion as we're able to muster, endless questions about how toilet paper would be made in an anarchist society or why we don't use the forcefully extracted lactation of pregnant mother cows – a teaspoon of pus in every glass – in our coffee. We have also shown care to those around us, offering an imperfect sanctuary to those most marginalised by the society we seek to change. At our best we hope we have done so without judgement and that we have been, if not a home, then at least a brief respite from the myriad harshnesses of which the world is capable.
And, even more than this, we've slowly grown a family, forging close ties and revolutionary friendships between people who entered through our doors alone, searching for others like them. Others likes us. Others who see the world as it is and can no longer countenance it. Coming together at bolo'bolo, often unsure of why, occasionally our eyes meet and we know the burning desire in each others hearts. Pacts are made and projects fomented under cover of night.
When, for so many of us, so much of our being is bound up in this magical, impossible space we've created and sustained together, a space that prefigures, however tentatively, the world we'd one day like to live in, who can blame us for becoming attached to it, perhaps even to the point where the form – a modest bookstore and coffee shop (and gender neutral toilet of infinite possibilities) on a busy strip in an eclectic suburb of Cape Town – supersedes the function and we forget why bolo'bolo is here in the first place. Reflecting on closing our doors after all this time then, after everything we've shared, it is impossible not to feel some sadness. But there is also some room for hope: bolo'bolo may have been, in its own small way, a powerful incubator for anarchism in Cape Town but, and this is essential, an incubator is also something that one must, at some point in time, leave.
That time is now.
We will be closing our infoshop at 76 Lower Main Rd. on the 24th of December. On the 1st of January, Blank Books and Bibliophilia will take over the venue, which will remain a bookshop and probably cafe too. There will even still be some anarchist books available, but the collective will have moved on, taking another tentative step into the unknown. We invite you to join us for this next stage of our journey so that we can map the way forward hand in hand; we're going to be publishing and distributing tons of literature, hosting events and collaborating on pop-up infoshops, media projects and cultural subversion. There's even talk of an anarchist caravan and some wild-eyed whispers of squats and communes...
Our closing is not, then, a sign of resignation. It is a call to grow beyond the confines of our four shrinking walls. If this call resonates with you then speak to us. There is a secret world buried beneath this one and we will find it together.
As a very first step, let's get together at bolo'bolo on Friday the 19th for a monumental closing-down party and celebration of what we've achieved. There, over drinks and music we can conspire about what to do next.
For anarchy and wildness, in revolutionary friendship and with mad, mad love, The bolo'bolo collective and extended family dance party
(AK, Amantha, Anah, Anna, Aragorn, Brent, Daniel, Farrah, Gabi, Hannah, Jamie, Mira, Robin, Sonya, Xola and a host of others)