Khoi and San gallery opening

Vanishing Villages by Stanley Grootboom.

Khoi and San artists can share their art and heritage at a new gallery in Observatory.

The Koena Art Institute (KAI), a non-profit company, celebrated the opening of its Trill Road premises, on Thursday December 3.

The gallery’s curator, Lukretia Booysen, founded KAI two years ago. She said it had its origins in her work as an activist pushing for indigenous peoples to be part of the country’s socio-economic development.

Ms Booysen said Knysna artist Stanley Grootboom had first approached her, saying he liked her work and what she stood for.

Then more artists approached her and she started selling their art under the name of the Koena Art Institute, both online and at pop-up exhibitions.

Mr Grootboom said he had seen Ms Booysen’s activism-work on social media and had felt she could make a difference in promoting indigenous art, which he believed was not getting the exposure it deserved.

“She is young and dynamic and knew how to interact with people,” he said.

KAI was a place where the country’s indigenous peoples could tell their own stories through their art, Ms Booysen said.

“It has always been told by people who are not necessarily from our culture. Our culture is today being politicised, but we just want to be ourselves, to be able to embrace, share and celebrate ourselves.”

She added: “Art is the perfect medium to honour our culture because art is a conversation starter.”

She plans to host a range of events at the gallery, including cultural-exchange classes, language classes, art classes and food-and-drink tastings.

So far 10 artists are signed with the KAI.

They include painter Anthony Roach, self-taught Tsitsikamma sculptor Marlene Liebenberg and Worcester poet and writer Diana Ferrus.

Artist Bryne Newfeldt from Port Elizabeth was one of the featured artists at the opening. He specialises in drawings and paintings depicting the everyday history and current social life of the Khoi people.

“My art comes from the heart and being part of the Koena Art Institute family, where every artist has the same ideal and vision, is just amazing,” he said.

“It feels like I finally arrived home.”

The Koena Art Institute is open from Tuesday to Friday, from noon to 7pm, and on Saturdays from noon to 4pm. Entry is free.

Visit www.koenaartinstitute.co.za or find the gallery on Facebook and Instagram for more information.