The Maboneng Township Arts Experience is a national public arts initiative that turns homes in townships into galleries and outdoor spaces into performance districts. We work humbly with home owners and families to create a warm intimate arts environment in our townships. After 10 years, The Maboneng Township Arts Experience has turned over 50 homes in South African townships into galleries, exhibited over 40 artists and encouraged township residents to invest in art.

The name Maboneng is a seSotho word for A PLACE OF LIGHTS. This followed Alexandra Township being called DARK CITY by the community. Alexandra Township had no electricity before and hence the name DARK CITY. After the government brought in the lights, the community renamed their township to ALEXANDRA MABONENG meaning ALEXANDRA A PLACE OF LIGHTS.

The Maboneng Township Arts Experience started when Alexandra native and artist, Siphiwe Ngwenya realised that art awareness was lacking in his neighbourhood. Siphiwe also realised that there was a perception of art as being an ‘outsider’, like a ‘giant living in the hills’. With this at the forefront of his mind, Siphiwe started exhibiting art on the streets and corners of this South African township. In the process, he involved local artists and encouraged local kids to see art as a viable career path.

Since then the project has grown from its humble roots to a national programme that hosts annual township art festivals and includes various permanent township art routes, attracting numerous visitors.

This initiative is based on the belief that TOWNSHIPS are the epicentre of the ARTS around the world. Our vision is to end negative perceptions about townships by 2030 through the arts. Townships will turn into great towns. We will do this by celebrating the simpler and closer things in life, like our homes, our families and the high calibre of community ethics.

Here is the little overview of the Maboneng Township Arts Experience’s activities:

Looking back

Our team was blown away when we were chosen as an official project of the 2014 Cape Town World Design Capital (WDC) programme. We also expanded our initiatives with permanent TAGs (Township Art Galleries) and art routes, which are now open most days of the week. Yes, that means you don’t have to wait for our annual festivals to have an authentic township arts experience.

This year was off to a great start when we were included at the top of the New York Times’ list of 52 places to see in 2014 (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/01/10/travel/2014-places-to-go.html?_r=0). We were also included in local actuality television programme, Carte Blanche’s profile of the WDC (http://carteblanche.dstv.com/player/444704).

What an exciting journey it has been so far – all by focusing on our passions: arts and communities in townships.