Creative space: Artists celebrate Jozi's downtown dreams

30 August 2016 - 10:38 By Gemma Hart

Nestled between the edge of Newtown and Fordsburg, a former industrial warehouse is now a space of continuous cultural exchange where artists are engaged in conversation about their different cultures and experiences. The Bag Factory was initially inspired by the early Triangle and Thupelo workshops in the late 1980s founded by David Koloane and Robert Loder.They are now celebrating their baby's 25th birthday."David and Robert wanted to recreate a permanent creative environment which would benefit artists of all races," says Aysha Waja, a curator at the Bag Factory.The notion of ''learning through exchange" remains at the core of its practice.''The location is central. It is just outside the CBD and gives a sense of everyday engagement with the city, while also providing a space for reflection," she says.This experience of environmental interaction has influenced popular local artists like Diana Hyslop and Blessing Ngobeni and the location positions the Bag Factory at the intersection of artist and city.More than 300 artists have come through the Bag Factory's doors in the last 25 years - engaging in studio practice, workshops and residency programmes.An extensive calendar has been developed to meet the needs of local and international artists."[The Bag Factory] now transcends its early notions into national and international projects focused on supporting and developing artists in South Africa," Waja says.An "open door" studio policy ensures a level of accessibility: artists and the public are able to frequent the space regularly."We encourage young artists to visit regularly and access the wealth of information that the artists have."The notion of access is a crucial element to the process of cultural exchange within the space. Education and shared knowledge are also at the core of the organisation.The David Koloane & Reinhold Cassirer award programmes, residencies and artist outreach projects articulate and enable these ideals to manifest themselves.On the eve of its anniversary the space boasts a full house, symbolic of its success.Artists in residency include Lady Skollie, Barclay's L'Atelier merit award winner (2015) Gideon Appah, Sheekha Kalan and Ausuka Nirasawa (Japan)."We also have our David Koloane mentorship award, which will be featured at the Johannesburg Art Fair in September with finalists Shenaz Mohomed, Minenkulu Ngoyi and Carmen Ford."See

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