FNB Art Joburg
Sandton Convention
Centre, Johannesburg,
South Africa

Space of Interest

On enabling continent wide cross pollination

with dot.ateliers

When asked to describe what the general public’s relationship with art looks like in Accra, the dot.ateliers team says although the uptake is gradual, people are becoming more aware of its growing impact. “We are seeing contemporary art starting to bleed into popular culture and the more locals learn about the different artists from home, the more proud and supportive they become.” Featured in this week’s _____Of Interest the team speaks to FNB Art Joburg about its desired efforts to break the continent’s art scene out of its echo chamber.

Not exactly a gallery, project space, or cultural centre, dot.ateliers exists in the realm of ambiguity that allows them to respond to the tide. Simply a “space” subtly looking to address the art world’s threat of remaining an echo chamber, dot.ateliers wants to cultivate the next generation of artists while expanding the audience they reach by contributing towards a sustainable ecosystem. Not the first, and probably not the last to say that, the space’s existence strikes a feeling that sits right between apathy and gracious hope.

Conceptualised by visual artist Amoako Boafo, dot.ateliers was informed by the opportunities the artist has ceased and developed from over the course of his career. “Artists bring so much value to the world and don’t ask for much in return except for support in the form of spaces and materials to create and freedom to experiment with their creativity and maybe recognition to crown it all,” says Boafo. Based between Accra, Ghana and Vienna, Austria Boafo felt it important to pay it forward to artists in Ghana, on the continent, and in the diaspora.

Also for the artist is a residency programme where five handpicked young artists will be given studios away from their usual spaces where they can experiment and develop their practices away from their everyday cues. Taking part in the inaugural residency are Zandile Tshabalala (Johannesburg), Clotilde Jiménez (Hawaii), M. Florine Démoshthéne (Haiti/ New York), Crystal Yayra Anthony (Accra) and Dzidefo Amegatsey (Accra/ Kumasi).

Although it is artist-centred, in looking to be as beneficial for art enthusiasts as it is for artists, dot.ateliers is decked out with a gallery, cafe, art library and what its team refers to as an “external generator yard”. Complete contrasts, each aspect supports and encourages a different type of connection to the arts. These include engagement through spectacle, social connection and education.

To launch the space, Nigerian-British curator, Aindrea Emelife curated a Boafo solo exhibition titled Homegrown. Never beforeseen, the works in Homegrown reflect Boafo’s practice, his continent-wide idea of home, connection and community. Parallel to Homegrown, the Akworkor Thompson curated group show Side by Side demonstrated Ghana’s visual art prowess, drawing work from Ghanian artists living in and outside the country. Together, the shows contribute towards setting a tone for dot.ateliers: in its grand, expansive pursuits, the space will prioritise a continent-wide cross pollination between artists, collectors, cutators, academics and communities.

Neither clinging to a sociopolitical or a commercial model, choosing a collaborative rather than a competitive approach, dot.ateliers encourages participatory visual culture where the presence of art becomes a constant and not an occasion in social scenes. So far so good: In their own words, dot.ateliers says “the public has been very supportive”, curious and eager to interact with whoever they come across in the courtyard and hallways.

Opening its doors during World Cup final weekend, the dot.ateliers courtyard (temporarily furnished with a television) was a feature in many Instagram stories over the 2022 December period. Unintentionally taking to the space as one where you come for the art but stay the people, the team’s only task (beyond exhibition making, residencies and public programming) is maintaining this inclusive energy — an assignment many have failed.

In May 2023, the public can look forward to an exhibition of works from Amoako Boafo’s private collection. For more information, you can follow dot.ateliers on Instagram at @dot.ateliers