Clarke's Bookshop in Long Street, Cape Town. Picture: SUPPLIED
Clarke's Bookshop in Long Street, Cape Town. Picture: SUPPLIED

Even the most beloved local institutions aren’t safe from the effects of the nationwide lockdown on the economy. Clarke’s Bookshop in Cape Town, which has been operating in Long Street for almost 65 years, is facing a financial crisis and is asking for help to keep its door open.  

“Bookselling at the best of times relies on a very tight cash flow, and the pandemic has had a devastating effect on ours,” says co-director Andrew Sales.

As a fundraising initiative, Clarke’s has put together an online art auction in collaboration with Aspire Art Auctions. The auction features a collection of book-inspired artworks from celebrated local artists who it has a relationship with, such as William Kentridge, Jane Alexander, Brett Murray, Penny Siopis and Conrad Botes.

Clarke’s was started as a second-hand bookshop but its focus moved to SA books, both new and out of print. Having been around since 1957 has meant that Clarke’s stands as a record of what has been published in and about SA for decades.  

As a bookshop that specialises in SA books, Clarke’s also supplies international university libraries with SA material. Most of its library customers worldwide have closed under their own nationwide lockdowns.

Owner Henrietta Dax and Sales have been prioritising paying staff during the lockdown, so they have incurred debt to many of their suppliers. “We won’t be able to move forward without this debt being repaid,” says Sales. “Though we have had wonderful support from our regular local customers, we will not be able to rely on this alone, and we know that business will be tough for a long time.”

All proceeds from the auction will be shared between Clarke’s Bookshop and the participating artists.

The online auction is live now and will close at 6pm on June 1.

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