Having grown tired of Johannesburg’s “elitist” art circles and the city’s “faceless” nature, a group of urban youth decided to create a space for the kind of art they believed in.
Kudakwashe Johnson (25) and Tseleng Phala (30) are two of the five-member organisation, Building Unity through Arts (BUA).
BUA describe themselves as “a young company comprised of creatives aiming to bring forth a different kind of perception towards local art.”
This perception is of art as a “hobby and not a career.” The young team want to manage artists and make sure “all they have to worry about is producing work.”
Johnson said they wanted to change society’s perception of art as a non-lucrative industry: “We have architects, graphic designers, engineers and a vendor. We want to have an accountant on the team as well, someone who will just deal with the books.”
This is all in an attempt to make the company a “working machine” in the creative industry.
BUA also want to work on re-establishing real relationships between artists and audiences – undoing the craft’s “aloof” image.
“We want to move away from this conscious ideology artists are associated with,” Johnson said.
The self-employed former Information Technology (IT) student said BUA’s aim was to make art more accessible and exciting to “everyday people”.
He remembered how certain performers did not like BUA hosting poetry sessions at a bar: “They didn’t like the idea of being ‘deep’ in a pub.”
It is this idea, of artists being distinct from “ordinary” people that BUA wants to take apart.
Phala is a former Witsie and BUA’s art director. He is responsible for the organisation’s branding. He also ensures the quality of all the works put out by the company are “original and of international standard”.
Some of this work will be on display at BUA’s event, “A 1000 People Boogy”, in November.
Performances from some of Johannesburg’s most celebrated artists as well as freshly unearthed acts can be expected. Live poetry and sets from house, drum and bass, hip hop and reggae DJs will be central to the Boogy. The event will also showcase the work of visual artists.
This will be one of BUA’s many events to raise awareness of the company and vision. “We just want attention,” Johnson said, speaking on their efforts to draw crowds to their Facebook page.
Phala said they wanted to give a “face” to Johannesburg by occupying spaces most people would not expect: “We want to have people see Joburg as a piece of art.”