cape town, south africa: maboeneng township arts experience
My second AirBNB experience that I chose was "All Artists Here." This is another social impact experience that is focused on local artists in Cape Town and the surrounding areas. The experience is hosted by Bongani, who is part of the Maboneng Township Arts Experience, a "non-profit, social entrepreneurship, tourism organization that trains and works together with families and artists to convert their homes into art galleries/museums to spark economic empowerment." The organization essentially gathers together artists and advises them and equips them with skills, resources and a network to succeed.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, in 2014, I started PaintItFwd, an initiative where myself and other artists create paintings that symbolize social causes and the proceeds go towards them. Combining art and social impact is very close to my heart so I was thrilled to find an experience that did both.
The plan for the 3-day immersion was as follows: Day 1: Coffee Intros & Artistic Connection (meet local Cape Town artists in galleries and markets), Day 2: Home Gallery & Lunch (visit galleries and studios in South Africa's oldest township), Day 3: African Musical Send-Off (join artists in a drum circle to bid farewell). Sounds cool doesn't it?! Unfortunately I got food poisoning (to be coveredlater) and was only able to attend Day 1. Bongani was so kind the rest of the time and offered to bring me anything I needed while sick and sent me well wishes to get better... so sweet!
Day 1 was amazing! Bongani and I met for coffee with James, a local artist, at Kamili Coffee (super cool and hip place on Cape Town's hopping Long Street). We walked to the shop next door and spoke with the owner who facilitates bringing together local artists and entrepreneurs work under one roof. The design, creativity and customization were incredible.(as seen in the photos below)
Afterwards, we went to James' studio to see his work, learn his technique and story and even help him with what he was working on. I was so inspired to see how James' work has changed and evolved over the years. He has challenged himself with different artists and mediums, which felt relevant to me, not only as an artist but also as a person. His work is almost entirely portrait-based with some abstract pieces mixed in. The emotion of the person he is featuring is captured right away and radiates with energy from his bold, contrasting colors. James' latest technique is using many shapes, sizes, colors of beads and he even let me play around!
We also met, Eric, another local artist. He is highly critical of work he comes across and knows right away whether he likes it or not. I came to learn that he escaped a war-ridden territory in Africa and was on the run/road for years before he came to South Africa and self-taught to be an artist. It means so much more to me when you learn someone's story as to why they are they way they are and why they have the perspective they have. I believe in the power to communicate this strongly through art without even using words.
At the end of the day, Bongani took me through the market to meet one of his friends who was set-up with his beautiful paintings of quintessential South Africa. There is so much life in this country that comes through in the artist's work. Strong colors, wild animals, lively people. You feel the vibe around you and through you when looking at art here.
I was so bummed to miss the other days but so grateful for my time with Bongani and James. I learned so much from them about the political, social and cultural landscape in South Africa. They helped me to understand the barriers with local artists and the benefit of the township program to advise, develop and connect them together. I'm looking forward to following along to see where they go next.