It is easy to drive past the Bag Factory without noticing it. The building in central Johannesburg looks pretty rundown, with wire in front of the small windows. Inside, however, a pleasant and spacious gallery connects 18 artists' studios, a darkroom, a room for seminars, and an office to each other. Last year, 14 exhibitions were held in the gallery, which attracted a large crowd. Six times a year, the Bag Factory hosts two foreign artists who come for three months to create art and give workshops to the local community, as part of a cultural exchange program. For the local artists at the Bag Factory it is an opportunity to catch up with what is happening in the international art scene.
The Bag Factory is an artists' driven project, established in 1991. "There was no studio culture in South Africa", says director and co-founder David Koloane, who received a Prince Claus Fund Award in 1998. "White and black artists worked separately. I thought it would be great to work together and to get to know each other." The purpose was also to advance the visual arts in South Africa. Koloane: "Visual art is seen as a kind of entertainment, rather than a serious thing, especially in the black community where there are no resources or galleries. They can't believe that we come to work every day, as they think artists are lazy and irresponsible." The Bag Factory has changed these perceptions, says Koloane. "The project has created a whole new dimension to cultural life in South Africa. My work has also developed because of it. If you work as a group, the marketing becomes easier, and you get a lot of inspiration. The artists discuss each other's work. It has made the arts more innovative. Art works can only grow from interaction."
Sam Nhlengethwa: Waiting for a Taxi - Mixed Media - Jozi People, 2001
Bongi Bengu: Marching to Freedom