Growing up in Alexandra township in Johannesburg,
Siphiwe Ngwenya helped his mother run a home-based business that sold freshly
baked food to residents every morning. In the process he learnt about
interactions between the service provider and the client, and the unique
challenges in turning a home into a place of business. Now, as Director and
Curator of Maboneng Township Arts Experience (MTAE), he and his partners have
helped turn over 70 township homes across SA into public galleries, exhibiting
over 50 artists.
Following its launch in 2001, this is now a national public festival in Alexandra (Joburg), Madadeni (KZN), Langa and Gugulethu (Cape Town) that includes visual arts, dance, film, theatre, music and other art forms. Key to the program is not only encouraging art appreciation but also job creation and social enterprise development in arts, culture and tourism. The project is engaging in a formal capacity building initiative that will use existing Government programs and privately sponsored development programs to administer all the educational activities. This facilitates an exchange of knowledge amongst the artists as they integrate from the different townships. This integration has spread to provincial exchange and will grow to a regional and international collaboration. MTAE will also work closely with City projects and galleries in arts exchange programs.
MTAE involves design both as a program and as the physical transformation of gallery homes; it also spills out onto streets, creating opportunities for rethinking the design of public space. The launch of The LANGA TAG (Township Art Gallery) in 2013 was carried out in partnership with Open Streets (project #WDC207), integrating public and private space. The LANGA TAG is a permanent gallery home system that is open daily to visitors at a fee. Ownership of the galleries and the festivals lies with the artists and the homeowners; and with its open agenda, the festival can explore ways in which public art can transform urban space and social interaction.