By: Tebogo Mokwena
Cape Town-based art gallery 16 on Lerotholi was founded to use art as a tool for fostering understanding, empathy, and solidarity in the community of Langa, according to co-founder Mpilo Ngcukana. It was also established in 2019 to showcase the creativity of African artists. Ngcukana told Vutivi News that the vision of the gallery was to redefine the African dream by empowering the continent’s artists with a platform that was invested in their artistic development and commercialisation. The stylish gallery, which is situated at the heart of the township, exhibits and sells paintings, sculptures, and installations from artists from various walks of life.
Ngcukana, who has a background in marketing and branding, said that the business was self-funded. And the pieces were sold to people who visited the gallery and through online platforms. Ngcukana said that he enjoyed showcasing the incredible talent of African artists and being able to make a positive impact on the Langa community through art. Community members were given a platform to exhibit their work. He said the gallery also wanted to change the narrative of townships by introducing art to inspire young children.“Art is an essential tool for us to communicate in a different ways.
We looking to change the narrative of what you would expect in a township. By showcasing a lot of the local talent we have inspired younger children, who come from school and are inspired by visiting the gallery and looking at the shows we have.” Ngcukana said that while the business had limited resources and a lack of exposure to the global market, “We overcome these challenges by collaborating with other artists and galleries, utilising social media platforms to reach a wider audience and continuously improving our marketing and branding strategies”. “Our biggest achievements include hosting successful exhibitions and events, being recognised by local media and receiving positive feedback from customers and the community,” Ngcukana said.
Their most recent exhibition, which was the gallery’s first solo exhibition, took place earlier this year. Titled “Natural Habitat,” the gallery collaborated with Everard Read Gallery to show the skills and talent of artists Blessing Ngobeni, Boemo Diale, Daniel Morolong, Ignatius Mokone, Mongezi Gum, Nandipha Mntambo, Phillemon Hlungwani, Setlamorago Mashilo, Speelman Mahlangu and Vusi Khumalo. Ngcukana explained that the creative process of each of the artworks was deeply rooted in its geography and, in some instances, locations similar to Langa township. The gallery hopes to establish itself as a prominent platform for African art in the global market. “In the next five to 10 years, we see the business expanding to more locations and collaborating with international artists and galleries,” he told Vutivi News.