Two fine artists from townships in the Bay are preparing for the trip of a lifetime!
Banele Njadayi and Mkhonto Gwazela will be flying off in September to America’s own windy city, Chicago, to showcase their art work together with over one hundred other pieces from talented Eastern Cape artists. The visit is set to coincide with September’s South African Heritage Month in Chicago.
Tradepoint SA Nelson Mandela Bay has been working with Gallery Guichard in Chicago on a project aimed at raising awareness of EC talent among US fine art collectors and galleries. Tradepoint SA hosted a delegation of US art buyers in June this year, holding workshops at the Red Location Museum, the Grahamstown Arts festival, and in Mthatha. Of the 53 artists who attended these workshops, 16 were identified as gallery-ready (i.e. their art work was of a high quality to be displayed and sold to potential art collectors). Art gallery owner and national curator, Andre Guichard of the Gallery Guichard in Chicago said, ‘The art work we have seen has been above my expectations in terms of quality and diversity. The artists use various mediums and themes to capture the social issues in their art pieces which they are using to uplift the Eastern Cape.”
A total of 151 pieces of art have been commissioned and are currently being packed and air freighted to Chicago in time for an African art exhibition, commencing in Chicago on 19 September. The Eastern Cape art work will be exhibited for two months and it is anticipated that over R1 million will be generated in sales.
40% of the Chicago population is Afro-American and they are eager to reconnect with their roots. The main event will coincide with Heritage Day, and the SA Consulate in Chicago will play a significant role in facilitating trade meetings and other gatherings to maximize the exposure f or the Eastern Cape as a key trade and tourism location.
The attending artists, Banele Njadayi and Mkhonto Gwazela, are thrilled to have been selected to attend this event. Banele said that being selected was a dream come true. “I was amazed to learn that I was part of the group of 16 artists asked to submit art work for export. When I was told by the Tradepoint Manager that I would be one of the lucky ones travelling to Chicago for 10 days [in September], I was stunned.” Fellow artist Mkhonto was equally thrilled: “I am truly honoured to be invited to represent the township art community in Chicago. This is the beginning of a relationship that will establish a US market for our high quality Eastern Cape art, and, if all goes well, this will be the start of a regular trade in art exports from the Eastern Cape.”
While in Chicago, the artists will host art demonstrations and visit key art collectors.
Tradepoint SA manager, David Hamer, is organising and sponsoring the event with the support of SEDA, the Small Enterprise Development Agency. He said, “This is a culmination of almost a year’s planning which began with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. It has been a fantastic experience to work with such a wide array of talented artists, and to make this project a reality. Carmenita Redcliffe at the Metro has been instrumental in this project, as has my colleagues in SEDA, who have fully supported this fantastic initiative. I hope to establish ongoing trade links with Chicago and other US cities for our local artists to continue sell their art work to international buyers.”
Hamer, Njadayi and Gwazela leave Port Elizabeth on 18 September and return on 30 September.