By Edward Tsumele
In recent months, especially just before the lockdown, there was a sense that Maboneng is somehow struggling to maintain its soul in general as what has always made this place breathe its life is its art features such as galleries, cinema and theatre for example.
And when lockdown struck, the belief that the place was on a downward trajectory seemed to consolidate as news filtered in the arts community that PopArt, a place that has over the years featured cutting edge plays, and The Bioscope, the only cinema in the inner city that featured alternative independently produced films were relocating to 44 Stanley, made many believe that was it. Indeed The Biscope is now operating from its new premises at 44 Stanley, while PopArt is currently running a limited theatre programme virtually, while it is looking for a new home.
But the place is far from losing its art element, and in fact it seems to be reinventing and repurposing itself.
If there was a sense that the place was losing its art features and therefore its soul at the beginning of the lockdown, that fear is no more justifiable as Maboneng, is actually clawing back, and seemingly, fighting a winning to battle to reclaim what was lost or being lost.
In fact, exciting things are on the horizon, and it looks like once more, this will become a place for the discerning and culturally sophisticated lot, like it has always been.
Come September 24, Maboneng will find its artistic rhythm again with the launch of a number of interesting arts and lifestyle projects at the building that once housed the now defunct Museum of African Design (Moad). This building will now become an interesting arts hub alongside the Arts On Main Building where William Kentridge’s Centre for Less Good Idea, David Krut Print Workshop and Mary Sibande’s Studio, among others, are located.
Come September 24, the building that once housed Moad, will now be a home to a new progressive Afro-centric gallery called Gallery Fanon, which promises to feature some of the most interesting and fresh visual voices from South Africa and the rest of the African continent. And If the choice of the first artist to have a solo show, Sifiso Mkhabela is anything to go bye, this is indeed a place to check out, especially for collectors looking for fresh art talent to collect (see our interview with artist Sifiso Mkhabela in this edition).
A project space will also be unveiled on September 24, which will host an exhibition of female artists to start with and more projects will be unveiled in the coming months.
A residency programme will also be launched on the same day, which once it is fully operational, will see artists from the rest of the African continent work along those from Europe and the US once skies have been opened again, following the closure of international travel due to Covid-19.
The place will also house a pop up cinema called Bantu Bioscope, and on 24 September, there will be a film screening.
“Two restaurants will also be unveiled on the day, Eden Poolside and Anthill Café. And that is not all, as we will also on the day announce the resumption of Artisan Weekly, to re-open on September 26, after it was disrupted by the outbreak of Covid-19. In fact there will be lots of entertainment here, including jazz performances,” says Sisa Ntuli a director at Anthill, one of the brains behind the repurposing of the building that once housed Moad, and which will now be known as Anthill from September 26.
“We want to make this place an art hub and will definitely make Maboneng an interesting place again, attracting people from far and wide, to come to the inner city once more. This will truly be a Pan African arts hub in the true sense of the word,” says Megan Theunissen, director and chief programs manager at Gallery Fanon.
.The launch and the exhibition on September 24, is free to the public.