This article appeared in the Kruger2Canyon newspaper. We thank them for their on-going support!
The old derelict building close to the Khamai Reptile Centre is almost unrecognizable. Its drab brick exterior is now fresh and white. Its large doors are siren red. A huge mosaic by well-known Hoedspruit creative Pippa Moolman proudly proclaims its new identity as iNyoka Gallery; home to a co-operative of artists living in Hoedspruit and its surrounds.
“We have people commenting on how incredible it looks from the road,” says Colleen Wall who, along with Mark Blair and a troop of willing volunteers, has spear-headed the renovations. “It’s great to get that kind of ‘big picture’ feedback because we’ve been so involved in working out the details of what needs to be done next that we sometimes don’t see just how far we’ve come.”
The transformation inside is just as noticeable. Light washes through its large windows, revealing 180 square metres of floor space that members of the co-op have spent hours scrubbing, sanding, painting and generally fixing up in anticipation of the gallery’s opening on 19 September. “We began renovations on the 18th of June, working Saturdays from about 09h30 till 16h30 and doing some work during the week too. It adds up to a lot of hours,” says Wall.
The project has since taken on a life of its own, fuelled by passion, hard work and the generosity of people willing to donate skills, supplies and crucially, time. To date, around R11 000 has been carefully spent under the watchful eye of treasurer Kerry Simpson. Several thousand rand more has been spent by a few key members out of their own pockets in an effort to kick off the co-operative without burdening the general membership with additional charges. The building itself was made available by Donald Strydom, with the nominal monthly rent being deducted from the cost of renovations.
“The progress has been incredible. When we started talking about the co-op seriously at the start of this year, we had two options; try and fundraise and wait until we had thousands of rand in the bank, or dive in. We chose the second option,” says Mark Blair, who used to own an art gallery in Johannesburg.
“Seeing people’s dedication and their belief in this project drives me,” says board member Endrew Zacharia, who provided lots of muscle and manpower to the project.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing as the co-op, which is managed by a board with input from its members, has worked out its own governance, membership and curatorial processes. “We’re always going to be a work in progress, but in a way, that’s the beauty of what we’re doing,” says renowned local artist and board member, Anne Watt.
The co-op now has close to 30 members, with new enquiries coming in all the time. “Our members have made this happen and we want to say a huge thank-you to everyone who has been involved in getting us ready for opening night; it’s been a humbling – and rewarding – experience,” says Blair.
For its very first exhibition, all members have been asked to donate a work of art that will be auctioned off by Charl Auret on 19 September, with the proceeds going to the co-op. “There will be live music, snacks and a cash bar, with Safari Wine Club sponsoring a selection of their amazing wines, plus lots of wonderful art on offer. Everyone’s invited to come and celebrate with us and see this beautiful new creative space,” says board member Caryn Bowie.
For more information on iNyoka Gallery and the co-operative, visit www.facebook.com/inyokagallery, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.