MASERU – Popular art house Café What? is only a year old but is growing steadily and fulfilling the aims it was started for.
Café What? founder Kaizer Mats’umunyane says the establishment’s inspiration comes from his passion for arts and creativity and his incessant desire to develop these in Lesotho.
Mats’umunyane says he had always wanted ideal space where art and creativity can thrive, a space where people can be themselves without being made to feel that their differences are an error.
He says: “Lesotho needs a renaissance and renewal. We need to challenge ourselves more and not accept things as they are. We need to stop believing in the narrative that ‘Lesotho is a small, poor country’ because that narrative is used to perpetuate the status quo”.
For Mats’umunyane the aim of creating such a space was to create a venue where people converse, collaborate, interrogate, inspire each other, connect and showcase their talents.
Situated at the industrial area, adjacent to Browns Cash and Carry and the Ministry of Forestry offices on Raboshabane Street, this home of game changers also focuses on invention of new products.
I also focuses on developing pervasively untapped sales channels and projects with the potential to massively impact communities in film, photo shoots, fashion, music and art.
The venue hosts discussions, workshops, lectures, critical discussions, events, performances and film screenings. It is an artistic and inspiring place that creates a sense of belonging and freedom.
The restaurant has a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere and hosts DJs and musicians who offer guests an interactive and highly entertaining music selection.
Mats’umunyane explains that he has been greatly inspired by the talent and creativity in Lesotho and that there are many talented people doing exciting things.
The challenge, he states, is that some people are not confident in their talents and there is also not much support for creative and artistic ventures in Lesotho.
Be that as it may, people who do not just sit and complain but keep working and creating under such adverse circumstances inspire him.
“When I first brought the idea of Café What? to people, most said ‘not in Lesotho’, ‘it will not work here’, ‘it is going to fail’ but look at it now,” he quips.
Mats’umunyane notes it is sad how people have set the bar so low for themselves here in Lesotho.
“I believe that if I did not believe in the vision and I did not have friends and family who also believed in it, people would have made me give up on the dream and that is how many dreams have died. It is easy to destroy than build,” he says.
He further states that introducing the concept of Café What? has been both exciting and challenging.
“Some people do not get it and it is fine with me but some people get it and love it. The art fanatic says it is very important to understand that one cannot be everything to everyone or else one ends up losing themselves,” he observes philosophically.
Mats’umunyane’s concern is not so much about business achievements but more about artistic projects that happen at Café What?.
He explains that Café What? has hosted very exciting local and international events and people always come up with exciting concepts and ideas fit for the café.
“My fulfilment and excitement comes purely from people who realise their ideas and potential at Café What?,” he states with a smile.
Mats’umunyane’s vision for Café What? is to see it exhibit and showcase more creative and artistic projects. He reveals that he is working on linking Café What? with other creative spaces around the world so that there can be shared skills, knowledge and projects.
He therefore would like people from Lesotho to showcase their talents in other countries and in return also get international artistes showcasing and collaborating with local artistes.
Mats’umunyane wants to see more local people embracing their creative side and to see the artistic and creative industries flourishing in Lesotho so that many other people can be guaranteed of sustainable livelihoods through arts and creativity.
Café What? is not a one-man project, cautions Mats’umunyane, but has come into being because of support from friends, family and people who were once strangers.
He says the people who support Café What? are the ones who make it live and therefore he is very thankful for the support and encouragement.