Art & Culture

Cheche Bookshop and Café

A space for politics, literature, cake & coffee

A space for politics, literature, cake & coffee

The latest arrival on Nairobi’s literary scene is offering a bookstore with a difference. Free Wi-Fi meets feminist politics in a cozy garden setting, with a slate of food and drinks to boot. 

ThisNairobi sat down with founder Ubax Abdi to learn what we can expect from the capital’s newest cultural space.

Cheche Books’ founder Ubax Abdi
Photo Credit: Ruth Nyambura

TN: How did the idea for Cheche Books get started? What kind of gaps were you hoping to fill in Nairobi’s literary scene?

UA: The idea came about when I couldn’t find a place in Nairobi to just browse and discover new books and simply wile away the time.  I found bookshops in Nairobi stuffy and designed in ways that actively discouraged browsing. You would have to come in knowing exactly what you wanted or place an order. Also, the content of these shops were very heavy on self-help, religious titles and foreign bestsellers.

Another reason for starting Cheche is that books in Nairobi are often prohibitively expensive here. I think it’s a myth that Kenyans don’t have a reading culture, they are just unaffordable to buy and many of us end up reading on our phones. Books are seen as a luxury when they shouldn’t be. Cheche is trying to bring the cost of books down – especially those from African writers – by finding new ways of distribution.

TN: What kind of writing can visitors hope to find on Cheche’s shelves?

UA: We are a Panafrican bookshop, so our focus is on books by African and diaspora writers and particularly books by women, as well as African political thought. But you can find all kinds of books and we want our shelves to be informed by our customers, too. We’re also working on creating a feminist-socialist lending library in the future. 

TN: The space aims to be more than just a place to buy books. What can you tell us about Cheche’s other roles as a cultural space?

UA: Yes! Cheche aims to be so much more than a bookshop. There’s also a café, where you’ll be able to get your coffee and cake fix, as well as snack on some Somali staples. We’re a left space where like-minded individuals can have meetings or just use the Wi-Fi. It’s a space that champions artists by providing resources for rehearsals and meetings and, as things continue to open up amid the lifting of anti-virus restrictions, performances too. 

TN: What sort of events can people hope to experience at Cheche going forward?

UA: Where to begin? Aside from live music and artistic performances, visitors should look out for our weekly film nights and storytelling sessions.. There’s a back catalogue of things planned that we’re now finally able to share. We’re also holding a special event commemorating Mashujaa Day this month.

TN: You launched the business just as the city’s anti-virus restrictions were beginning to roll out. How has this affected the trajectory of Cheche’s opening and what does it mean to operate a space for community and literature in these post-pandemic times? 

UA: It’s been really hard and obviously we weren’t able to remain during the early days of the pandemic in Kenya, but it’s also given us time to organize, plan and put in measures to cope with the new normal.

I think it’s become more important than ever to create a sense of community during this isolating time. People have turned to books for comfort, to educate, and to reflect.  It is clear the current system is broken. Cheche would very much like to help foster this reimagining of the world that is now unfolding as a space that challenges the status quo. 


Follow Cheche Books on Twitter (@chechebooks) or Facebook (chechebookshopandcafe) to keep up with exciting events and new arrivals.

How to find them: Find Cheche Books in Lavington at Intrade Africa Place (Block B), Kauria Close, off Muthangari Road.

Monday
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Tuesday
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Wednesday
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Saturday
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday
9:00 am – 5:00 pm

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