The new library is a sustainably-designed, colourful structure that will not only house books but also offer inventive, comfortable spaces for children to read and write. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town - One of South Africa’s most awarded creative ad agencies, Net#work BBDO, marked yet another milestone with the unveiling of its #14 Library for community schools.

This latest library provides over 2,000 books to the 500 children of Cecil Road Primary School in Salt River, Cape Town. The school services an incredibly tight- knit community and has educated children in Salt River since 1937, with some families having four generations attend the school over the last 82 years.

Designed and produced through the MAL Foundation, Net#work’s not-for-profit, independent collaborative hub, this latest project is the first of #25ActsbeyondAds, to celebrate a quarter of a century of breaking through the wallpaper of mediocrity. 

“Who needs one big all-fall-down party, when we can have serious fun throughout the year making a difference with ideas, leaving cool things of value in our wake,” expounds resident Silverback and MAL creative co-founder Mike Schalit.

The new library is a sustainably-designed, colourful structure that will not only house books but also offer inventive, comfortable spaces for children to read and write. Designed by MAL’s chief designer Emma Strydom, assisted by Naomi Mulder, the exterior panels of the library have been custom-designed to tell a story: providing a 2-way dialogue and extra stimulus or simply a brighter aesthetic for the community. 

“It’s about designing to draw kids in, to make them feel proud by association. A space that is as inspiring on the outside as it is in the books they read. So we created nooks and crannies, tunnels, windows, stairs and doors for them to explore through the colour-rich walls, to discover hidden letters and alphabetic structures. Hopefully changing their association with dimension and words, by showing them the magical world books can open up.”

The books for the library have been provided by Breadline Africa, a cornerstone partner in the development and maintenance of the 13 existing libraries.

The funds and support for this vibrant new blast of imagination were largely empowered by MAL’s creative collaboration with men’s clothing store Marlboro Originals and the Wear it Forward range, according to MD, Anthony Kawitzky: “How exciting to see the dazzling returns from our investment in design… loud, living proof of the power of fashion to give back.”

“Beyond the families that keep returning to Cecil Road school, this is a wider community that was somehow overlooked by apartheid and the Group Areas act, and as such has remained intact with this school at its heart, for over 82 years since,” says Boniswa Pezisa, Net#work BBDO CEO. 

“Past pupils include household names like actress Shaleen Surtie-Richards and “African Dream” songstress Vicky Sampson.”

“In addition, the current headmaster – Mr Mathews - as well as his parents, were all former pupils, as were some of their current employees and teachers and even their resident dentist – it’s a seriously special place,” says Schalit. 

The MAL Foundation was established in 2010 on the premise of ‘we MakeALiving by what we get – we MakeALife by what we give’ which led to this MakeALibrary initiative. Schalit explains that in the case of MAL, their skill is creativity, and they’re using it to improve the lives of those less privileged.

“We collaborate with brands and likeminded creative entrepreneurs from artists to musos, to architects to retailers, and NGOs, and as a result we’ve managed to use the proceeds to design and build these incredible libraries in township schools across South Africa,” says Schalit.

As former Cecil Road pupil, one of South Africa’s most celebrated singers Vicky Sampson adds “This gift of music is not for myself – it’s to make the world a better place, in turn to inspire others that your circumstances do not determine your future. I am living proof of that. I learnt that not circumstance, not time, not drugs, not gangsterism…there is a light shining amongst us and you just have to find that light and in turn make it burn brighter and brighter. The children are our future – it’s not a cliché.”

“Indeed, it’s been a wonderful thing to see the joy and excitement in the eyes of our children as the library has started taking shape,” says Cecil Road Headmaster, Mr Matthews. “We’re excited to open the doors and let the children enjoy the incredible resource that has been created for them –with the imaginative design and bright colours, they don’t even have to go in to gain from the experience.”

According to Net#work MD Leo Manne: “As connectors and communicators we have to move beyond Adland to truly make our mark, positively engaging with the public in meaningful ways. It’s no different to what we’re telling our clients right now, this is all about connecting. About relevance. Understanding the Zeitgeist. Leveraging popular culture. Giving back. Always with creativity at the heart of it all.”