Tucked away just off Braamfontein’s busy piazza The Grove, lies African Flavour Books, a bibliophile’s dream that is dedicated to showcasing the best in African writing. Seeking to represent the full spectrum of contemporary (and classic) African literature, around 90% of the books on the shelves are by African authors, while the remaining 10% are set in an African context. There is no genre that isn't covered - from children’s books to cookbooks and biographies, thrillers, historical novels and political commentary, it's all here. The store also supports a number of self-published authors and stocks books written in local African languages.
The inspiration for the shop's design comes from traditional African outdoor meeting places - natural light floods in from the floor-to-ceiling windows and casts shadows over an earth-coloured floor. On each shelf, labelled wooden spoons delineate the different genres - a nod to the shop's name that is inspired by the Sepedi tradition of using spoons to call for rain in times of drought . As African Flavour's co-owner Fortiscue Helepi puts it, this bookshop is a call for “the rain of knowledge and acceptance to touch the youth”. There's also ample space to sit and read and even a little table and chairs for the kids.
Husband-and-wife team Fortiscue and Nokuthula Helepi established African Flavour Books in 2013 in Vanderbijlpark, 70km south of the Joburg city centre. Their first store was born from their shared love of reading and a recognition that there are many people like themselves who would travel great distances to shop for good books. When the pair first opened their shop they were one of only three independent bookstores in the whole Vaal Triangle region and their reputation for stocking a broad choice of African literature spread far and wide, even attracting clients from Joburg's distant northern suburbs.
At this second branch in Braamfontein (launched September 2017) the Helepis continue to promote their vision for the ideal African book store. As they see it African Flavour Books is “a space where people can come and talk about African issues and learn about the stories of Africa from Africans”. The friendly staff are all extremely knowledgeable and will happily offer personal reviews of the latest books and suggest titles to read based on your interests. Furthermore book launches, readings and literary discussions are a regular feature on the bookshop calendar.