“Art as Life” drives South Africa’s KnexT Gallery to find new ways to showcase its “insanely gifted” artists

By Vee L. Harrison

When Linda Chandia was asked, for the Fall/Winter issue of Pigment Magazine, what her state of mind was, she offered that maintaining hope was one way to rise above our current situation. “We need to stand tall against any form of injustice to leave a better world for our children,” the artist said.

Her work entitled, “Beyond COVID-19” is one of the ones featured in the current exhibition at Cape Town’s KnexT Art Gallery.

Currently, South Africa has over 1.5 million cases of COVID-19. And just as across the world, the reality has changed how people carry out their daily routines making social interaction difficult, a lifeline to those selling art. The woman in Chandia’s piece wears a mask, yet her eyes lack light, leaving you with a feeling of unease that something is amiss. But her eyes also convey resolve.  The mosaic piece has a minimalist color palette, yet it is the mosaic that gives it the feeling of fracturing, a shattering of things if you will.   

Within this challenging climate, South African artists are seeking to emit strength and determination while also repositioning themselves. KnexT Art Gallery, located in Cape Town, has managed to rise to the occasion doing what is necessary to champion its artists and their work while sheltering in place, being socially distant and, when necessary, canceling or rescheduling art exhibitions.

“It’s really about survival of the fittest,” explained Blake Anthony, marketing director at KnexT. Anthony believes that if art curators and art enthusiasts continue to support the artists, the pandemic will not negatively impact the artists nor the gallery. KnexT is one of the premiere art galleries in the capital city and is located in the popular Watershed in the V&A Waterfront. The gallery specializes in local art, and artistic products and aims to empower local artists while also representing many well-known South African artists. At its mini-pop-up store, art lovers will find an array of contemporary art as well as artistic products which reflect the talents of many community artists. KnexT grew from an initial vision, to assist creative people in selling their products.

“I believe in the power of collaboration. If enough people work together with the same goal in mind, it is mutually beneficial to the art culture,” stated Anthony. According to Anthony, between April and May, there is a large influx of tourism with visitors frequenting the vineyards, soaking up the South African sun and visiting art galleries. However, the pandemic has drastically decreased tourism, so KnexT Gallery has undergone numerous changes to keep the art alive.

With the lack of grant funding opportunities for small businesses, in order to stay afloat and to better assist its artists, KnexT has put more energy and creativity into utilizing technology and upgrading its online presence. “Here we’ve not been able to tap into the grant funding that has been so prevalent in the United States”, Anthony shares. “This moment has inspired me to help my artists achieve,” said Anthony. “All too often, you see amazing artists who are suffering despite the fact that they are insanely gifted. I think it comes down to marketing in the correct manner and developing a good following. We have done this by bringing an array of art we bring to the table,” said Anthony.

Art is extremely important to residents of both Cape Town and Johannesburg, the country’s largest city. To many residents, “art is life”. The culture has high regard and respect for the arts and both cities are considered “art meccas.” In addition to Chandia of Zambia the gallery is also showcasing the work of Ramadhan Hamisi of Tanzania. Both artists put their souls into their art says Anthony. Their works show passion, and many pieces are very time intensive to create requiring months of work for some. Their ability to survive as working artists is dependent on the community and tourists to survive.

The KnexT Gallery is located at 17 Dock Rd Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. To learn more about the gallery and to view the art, visit the website at www.knext.co. You can also follow KnexT on Facebook and Instagram.

You can purchase the Fall/Winter Pigment Magazine to read the entire article, titled, Capturing A Moment in Time.