Theme: Designing with Compassion

Last year two public primary schools in KZN and the Western Cape received the very generous gift of a brand new library from MAL, a non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting communities through creativity and the power of ideas. But these aren’t any ordinary, boring spaces of tattered, third-hand paperbacks. They’re fun and whacky, uplifting and animated – and filled with 2,000 brand-new books. Solomon Mahlangu Primary School in Cornubia, north of Durban, sponsored by MAKRO and SHOUT SA, and the Cecil Road Primary School in Salt River, Cape Town, are now examples of how reading and learning can be exciting and inspiring. MAL Foundation Partner and Designer-in-Chief Emma Strydom says the libraries are created as beacons of hope and aspiration. “They’re somewhere where kids want to spend lots of time and something they can be proud of.” Her aim with every MAL (MakeAnotherLibrary) design is to create something that “looks super epic for the kids”. Her graphic patterns decorating the exterior and interior walls provoke the imagination and are full of discovery. The MAKRO Library even incorporates the retailer’s logo in a reinterpreted manner, making it appealing to children while celebrating the support of such a brand. Cecil Road Primary’s library was funded mainly by the sale of items from MAL projects, such as advertising agency Net#work BBDO’s Creative#Director Book and a T-shirt collaboration with Marlboro Originals. Support also came from SHOUT SA and Breadline Africa, who have assisted with many of the other MAL libraries around the country (there are now 15, with four more currently in the pipeline). Cecil Road Primary, a school that has been attended by four generations of the Salt River community, has gone from never having had a library to now sporting one of the most colourful buildings in the city. “It’s almost circus-like,” says Strydom, “with windows and stairs and holes to climb through. The idea is that reading can take you anywhere – you go through the hole and it opens a whole other world to explore." The MAL team sees education as a vital aid in employment, the reduction of crime and a way to relate to others and one’s place in the world. With the first MAL library having been built in 2013, Strydom is proud to confirm that they are all still running. “We didn’t give them something short-term. It’s not like a beautiful cake that, when it’s done, it’s gone. These libraries are still changing the lives of thousands of kids.”

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.