The Maboneng Township Arts Experience, which launched in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg in 2001, is the brainchild of Siphiwe Ngwenya. The unique concept sees township homes being turned into art galleries – where visitors can view local residents’ work in a warm and intimate space.
The project has helped convert more than 100 homes into attractions, while simultaneously creating skills and sustainable employment for local residents.
Townships that have participated include Kayamandi in Stellenbosch, Gugulethu and Langa in Cape Town, Emadadeni in KwaZulu-Natal, and Alexandra and Soweto in Johannesburg.
An artful experience
The families have committed to remaining open to the public throughout their daily activities, and all artworks exhibited are for sale. Artists from South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania and Germany have showcased their talents; and revenue generated by the ticket and artwork sales goes directly towards the support of the homeowners and artists.
“Based on collaboration between artists and curators, home owners, organisers, the community and visitors, the project has the support of local organisations and companies who have all contributed to making this happen” says Siphiwe.
Township into towns
The Maboneng project also includes the Townships into Towns experience, in which programme coordinator Bongani Ngwenya guides visitors around the township, stopping off at the homes of various artists, and giving participants a chance to truly appreciate the vibrant and creative energy of the community. The tour ends off with a traditional Xhosa meal, followed by an art workshop in one of the artist’s homes.
All in all, the Maboneng Township Arts Experience allows visitors to see a creative, colourful and vibrant side of township (probably quite different to what they may have envisioned). It provides an inspirational experience, in service of a noble cause.