At the intersection of Angier and South Driver Streets in East Durham, customers at the Rofhiwa Book Café have a 360-degree view of passersby, though most appear to be too absorbed in their books to notice. Plants line the café’s sun-drenched windows, and the artwork on the walls complements the bookshelves brimming with Black literature.
The Rofhiwa Book Café first opened as an online book retailer in February 2021, and then as a physical storefront in May. Beverley Boitumelo Makhubele and curator Naledi Yaziyo envisioned a space for Durham residents to engage with Black literature. The shop sells books by Black authors from around the world, as well as rare and out-of-print titles and literature that are difficult to find in big-box stores.
Makhubele never liked walking into a bookstore and walking out with a book, or sitting in coffee shops without interacting with others, so they created a space that combines the atmospheres of a bookshop and a coffee shop, with coffee from Black roasters.
“It felt critical to have a bookstore where people were encouraged to congregate and a coffee shop where people were encouraged to congregate,” Makhubele explained.
Makhubele was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and moved to the United States as a teenager. Makhubele began collecting Black, African, rare, and out-of-print books during their trips home to South Africa. As their collection grew, they began to consider the possibility of sharing it as an institute or library in the future.
However, in 2017, Makhubele began considering how they could share their collection more quickly and how an iteration of their collecting practise might look in a store.