Thabo Mbeki library will house African leaders’ papers & artefacts

Renowned pan-African architect David Adjaye says the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library's design will inspire excellence

Former president Thabo Mbeki with renowned pan-African architect, Sir David Adjaye, who was responsible for the architectural design of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library.
Former president Thabo Mbeki with renowned pan-African architect, Sir David Adjaye, who was responsible for the architectural design of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library.
Image: Screenshot from Zoom

Speakers at the unveiling of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library architectural design on Thursday evening lauded the library as being a home for all African connection, which will allow the continent to write its history.

Renowned pan-African architect, Sir David Adjaye, gave an overview of the design and said it would be the first carbon-neutral building on the continent.

Talking about the design, Adjaye said his obsession with African history, artefacts and research on the continent is what inspired the design. Aspects from the map of Africa to the huts, tombs and farmhouses went into how the library will look.

He said the building will be red, which will represent the historical part of African architecture.

“African buildings used to be made of mud brick, so the red will be representing that, just in a modern and new kind of mud brick,” he explained.

The three buildings are almost round-shaped, and he said this is a representation of huts, which he described as stores and chambers of knowledge.

Adjaye said he wanted to preserve African history with his design of the library and wanted to create an atmosphere that encourages excellence.

Trustee of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, said extensive work had already been done for the project.

“Land for phase one of the project has already been acquired and the library will be right here at the foundation (in Riviera, Johannesburg),” she explained.

Fraser-Moleketi said construction would only commence late next year, and said the project was made possible by generous donors, but asked more people to continue contributing to the projects.

She said they still needed to raise about R500m for the project.

Former president Thabo Mbeki said it would be more than a library; and would be a repository for African leaders’ papers, artefacts and collected works.

“The library will be a centre of excellence, learning, research, discourse and cultural exchange predicated on African perspectives,” Mbeki said.

The library would convey a message of hope.

“As Africans, we need to do something that communicates a better future — a library can do that. I’m inspired that in terms of what will be visible, what Sir David has done, just the image says we can do better as Africans,” Mbeki said.

Unisa will be part of the project and the library will form part of the Unisa Library.

“We are pleased that Unisa, which has the biggest library on the continent, will be part of the project. No university on the continent is as big as Unisa’s,” he said.

Mbeki said the library would not only be for SA but for the entire continent.

Brigalia Bam said the launch of the library gave hope, love and passion for the continent.

Some of those attending said they were happy that the library would be built in a neighbourhood where people are already living and those who need to visit it, would not have to make extraordinary plans to reach it.


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