Published 11 October 2021 in Thomarts Gallery
From a street artist to an art gallerist.
I was as raw as they all come from Mpumalanga to Johannesburg in the early 90s, smelling all kinds, except l was between a wood-fired fish and a rural smoked kitchen. Smoke in my eyes was a scary experience l ended with the excitement of An adventurer. Joburg required a street-smart experience and not abreast suckling-infant l was. Word has it that to be a Joburger one must undergo various, unavoidable initiations to fit in its society. I went through many of its initiations shockingly and unexpectedly.
The most regarded, which is often met with the sardonic saying, “Welcome to Jozi”, caught up with me on my first ever ID and Wallet robbery just after midnight in the notorious streets of beauty In Hillbrow. It was a hauntingly traumatizing experience to be vis-à-vis with a gun barrel on my forehead and a knife’s edge on my nether regions. You never get Jozi street-smart until you go through a few of these ordeals. I was never an artist then but wrote a few poems, drank a lot of whiskeys, puffed a lot of various smokes available, and sniffed a few items on the menu then. In a year, l passed on for a street-smart-look” too to fit in. Looking for a career to pursue, l got hooked on the passions of the creatives around Hillbrow, Berea, and Yeoville which enemy hang out. I heard their struggles and enjoyed their stories. They had no market access. I started to explore across and beyond Louis Botha avenue into Houghton, Park town, and Parkhurst suburbs to sell their products on foot. It was a great and eye-opening wonderful journey being an art salesman. One memory among many l want to share with you is that one-day l was carrying on my shoulder a commissioned wooden sew wrapped in plastic to deliver to a client in Parktown. I passed the Military Museum in Saxonwold leisurely, ignoring the weight, and walked down. As l sauntered alongside the fence towards the Johannesburg Zoo, l heard police sirens around me and before l knew it, l was surrounded by police men wielding their weapons at me. They shook the heavens out of me. I remember being out of breath but recovered eventually. I was pelted with questions from all sides and not given a chance to answer any of the questions. I was confused and close to peeing my pants. I am sure l understood remotely that l had to put the dead body down and unwrap it. Someone had notified the cop that a man is walking down the street carrying a corpse. I ditched this kind of selling art and found a spot on William Nicol, between Republic road and Jaguar dealership, opposite an old peoples’ home. I met with all kinds of buyers, some beautiful, some gorgeous, some handsome, and others what have you. A few years later, having managed to teach myself art, applied to Artists Under the Sun and was selected to exhibit with them every first weekend of every month. I also got to be a floater’ (a trader without a permanent booth), selling art alongside my poems at Waldorf Michael Mount Organic Market.
With perseverance comes maturity swell, and l grew passionately in my work to an extent that their mote markets were no longer of use to me and then l started the journey of knocking on various art galleries to sell my work on consignment. Unfortunately, almost all art galleries ‘kill’ the creativity of artists, as they require an artist to stick to what they deem as saleable. Because l love and believe in what l do, l embarked on opening my art gallery and accommodate like-minded artists whose works fit in the DNA of my gallery. Over many years l have gone through many shopping centers opening, closing, and moving to the next in search of a permanent space for my art gallery. I have made a great move for not only my career and business but for the artists that show alongside my works, as we are always surrounded by a community of art enthusiasts. Mesmerizing how much art has a huge following, one can establish it under the ocean and still get art lovers to come through, or even in the densest forest and people will still come. Art has a huge following than porn, and that is very amazing. My journey is still on, holding the fort with my wife Sheen-Leigh who is always beside me whether it is in the studio or art gallery and what have you, in sometimes criticism that is blunt or honor that uplifts. One starts a journey alone but does not walk alone, improbable! Our journey is unfolding out to that of a family business, and we will one day pass the torch over to our children who are constantly inquisitive about the art that we showcase… talk about purpose.
Until next time art folks, let us see where the journey, that has now led us to Flamingo Shopping Centre, takes us to.
Till then… ta-da!