Paul Brickhill (56); arts administrator, musician, mentor and activist, died this morning, after two months of illness. He was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer at the end of July and taken into intensive care at the Trauma Centre Hospital in Harare.
He was later transferred home and then three weeks ago moved to South Africa for further treatment.
Zimbabwean cultural icon, Oliver Mtukudzi, who visited Brickhill in hospital in August, remarked how at peace he was. "I was amazed by his strength," Tuku told Zimbo Jam. "He seemed to be totally at peace and totally accepting of his situation."
Indeed Paul, in an email letter sent to friends and colleagues on August 18, reflected this peace of mind.
He wrote: "A 33-year era has – for me – ended, abruptly and dramatically, the next journey of my life already begun. It all started as an outcome of the liberation struggle on our return home in 1980, I was 22 years, heady early days of independence, and promise of our future. Grassroots Books (est. 1981), transformed into the Book Café culture centre (1997) that paved the way for Pamberi Trust (2002), and in turn helped set up African Synergy in 2005. Related and memorable arts included Solidarity Band (a forerunner of the Bhundu Boys) and Luck Street Blues in music, and African Publishers Network APNET and ZIBF, and Anvil Press in books.
Needless to say, Book Café and Pamberi Trust have united leadership , competent and dedicated management, and all will operate as normal. It is also not easy for my colleagues and comrades.
Virtually my entire close and extended family was either with me or flew to Harare and mounted a 24 vigil at my bedside. Overwhelming really! I find it a little strange to be saying this, but it is true, I feel myself utterly blessed, and in many ways too; this extraordinary, rich life, an African life, so many wonderful, loved people and happenings, my life brim-full with goodness, love, beauty, music, books – and laughter!!! - a new sunset every night, and the majesty and enormity of Africa, the place, peoples, and the "idea"; the strong, vital and decent people whom I have known, who bear life with grace, time longer than rope.
Now each day for me is lived simply as it should be, alive and happy to see what the day will bring, the miracle of life, it is not over!
I find myself so fortunate to have been in situations where I could do something. I fight on. Aluta continua! African struggles, emancipation and life itself!
And this I read just before I became ill: "Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is", to paraphrase Albert Einstein. I am intrigued that a scientist could think like that, life without wonder and imagination does not exist. For me, everything that has taken place in my life appears to me as some kind of impossible, yet it has happened, none more so than our beloved Book Café, its thousand artists and life, histories and soul.
Do not think of this as a goodbye; I am sick but also just updating those friends who may not have known the dramas that unfolded over the last 3 weeks, from 24 July, and changed my life.
I wish you well.
With love, Paul"
Go well Paul. Our deepest condolences to the Brickhill Family, The Book Cafe team and the arts community at large. Paul was also a dear friend of the Zimbo Jam and we will miss him sorely.
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