A new exclusive upmarket arts hub Kwanza opens in Houghton Estate in Johannesburg

A members only venue, it houses an art gallery that will regularly host exhibitions among other activities

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

From the outside it looks like all the other houses in this upmaket Johannesburg suburb of Houghton Estate, seating on a gigantic 3200 Square metres of land and surrounded by Johannesburg’s famous man-made forest of trees lining up the streets.

But No.49 5th Street is not just a residential place. It is Johannesburg’s brand new arts hub with a difference, and will soon be one of the most desired addresses for everything art in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. This is according to the brains behind the business as explained to CITYLIFE/ARTS in an interview this week.

You see the owner of this double story mansion, since acquiring it last year, Mario Yantumbe and his team have been hard at work, tasting new ideas about the place. Now they have a clear picture of what the place will become.

“Since the property was acquired, we tried new ideas to see what works and what does not work. Now we know what we want and the development of these ideas into something tangible has started. Slowly those ideas are now taking shape,” Alexa M. Samson -Halliday, tells me in an interview this week.

She was speaking to CITYLIFE/ARTS while in the company of curators Thabo Modise and Zie Dywili, who with Mario are turning Kwanza Inn into something exclusive to cater for Johannesburg’s wealthy and discerning upwardly mobile classes.

“ Once we are fully running, what we will end up with here is an exclusive members only Kwanza In Club, to which membership will be per invitation only as we want to create a truly exclusive experience for members. In other words you cannot just apply to become a member. You will have to be invited by a member to join,” Samson-Halliday emphasizes.

Kwanza Inn will have a fully fledged gallery, top class rooms to accommodate visiting guests, a conference centre, a private function venue for booking for events such as book launches and workshops.

“We already have hosted a number of events, just to try out our ideas, such as an Ethiopian tea room, which will now change to evolve to something else with the change of season. We also had two successful art exhibitions, hosting interesting contemporary African artists,” added Samson Halliday, who is Kwanza Inn’s business development manager. She added that the whole programme will operate  in a cyclical fashion, with things changing all the time as no one thing will remain the same with regards to programming.

“We also plan to have workshops being held here and as we go along, we intend to have poetry readings as well, to make this place a really exclusive place for our members,” Dywili said.

Modise, who is one of the curators of Kwanza Inn told CITYLIFE/ARTS that the past two exhibitions attracted interest from art collectors and therefore art will continue to be a strong feature of the place going forward.

As they took me around this massive property with a huge garden, I also noticed some art works that were still on its walls. I saw artists represented in this exhibition, which is coming down, Happy Dhlame and Nelson Makamo, among others.

Going by the caliber of the people that have been to Kwanza Inn so far, it looks like this will be one of the hottest exclusive clubs in Johannesburg, attracting the moneyed and the influential in society. A few names of society’s high flyers from the suburb have been mentioned to CITYLIFE/ARTS.

Although the curators did not want to divulge what is in store in the coming few weeks,  there are certainly interesting things to watch out for with regards to programming at Kwanza Inn, which is strategically situated next to highways and a stone’s throw away from the Killarney Golf Course.

If you are looking for a place to book for a conference or a private function the number to call is 071 9085476.

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