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Koena Art Institute: Preserving Authenticity Through Indigenous Art

Indigenous art tells a story embedded in a region’s history and culture. In South Africa, the dialogue is being reborn at Koena Art Institute. Here, the beauty lies not only in the exploration of forms, textures and colours but in the ability of Indigenous art to preserve traditions, tell stories, and connect us to our land and the very essence of humanity.

We recently interviewed the Founder and Artistic Director of Koena Art Institute, Lukretia Booysen, about her personal journey and the importance of Indigenous art in this period of South Africa’s history.

Lukretia is a self-taught curator, creative entrepreneur and producer of visual arts exhibitions, projects and performances bridging art and culture focused on radical inclusivity of Indigenous Khoe & San art and culture in South Africa.

Koena

Artist: Gary Frier

What makes Koena Art Institute special and different from other art institutions?

The Koena Art Institute distinguishes itself from other institutions through several unique features:

The Koena Art Institute emphasizes the preservation, promotion, and education of Indigenous art forms and cultural heritage. This focus sets it apart from many other art institutions that may have a more general or Western-centric approach. The Koena Art Institute is also self-funded and functions almost entirely by our collaborations and sales.

The institute often collaborates closely with local art and design communities, ensuring that the programs and exhibitions are accurately reflective of and beneficial to these communities. This approach fosters a deeper connection between the institution and the people it aims to represent.

Koena also prioritizes sustainability and ensures that its activities do not exploit the cultures it represents. This commitment to ethical stewardship is a key component of our mission.

How is Koena bridging the gap between traditional and modern art forms without losing authenticity?

Koena offers interdisciplinary programs that blend traditional indigenous art forms with contemporary practices and technologies. This integration helps bridge the gap between historical art practices and modern artistic expression.

The curatorial approach at Koena is often community-driven, with exhibitions and programs co-created with Indigenous artists and scholars. This method ensures authenticity and relevance in the portrayal of Indigenous art and culture.

By integrating these elements, the Koena Art Institute offers a distinctive and respectful platform for Indigenous art and culture, setting it apart from more conventional art institutions.

 

As founder and curator, how has your personal journey informed your decision to work in this field?

My decision to work in this field and establish the Koena Art Institute is a culmination of growing up in a marginalized community, realizing my own cultural heritage as time went on is extremely vulnerable, over exploited and mis or underrepresented. As a direct indigenous descendant, I felt a need to create space for the celebration of indigenous arts and peoples but not only from a historical view but for the contemporary indigenous person.

I also realized that nearly all the organisations representing indigenous issues are not led by indigenous peoples meaning that the point of view from which the narrative is given can never be an accurate and honest representation. Instead of the work being treated like a theme or subject or topic, The Koena Art Institute’s work is from an indigenous lens and that is the treatment of all the work produced from our space.

Why do you think it is important for local South Africans to recognize, celebrate and embrace our unique heritage?

We are currently living in times when inequity and racial differences still play a big a big role in our South African society and landscape, however, I am of the belief that if all South Africans recognize, celebrate and embrace our unique heritages with favour and no biases, we can have a much more tolerant and patriotic country.

What is your vision for Koena Art Institute and how do you hope it develops in the future?

Our main aim is to build a self-sustainable indigenous arts organization that creates concrete and more permanent economic solutions for indigenous artists, creatives and peoples. We also aim to collaborate with national and international design, arts, tech and economic development organisations by hosting our Indigenous-themed exhibitions, curation and offerings exclusively and introducing our work to global markets. One of our most recent decor and design collaborations among others, was with Louise Decor & Design based in Observatory, for a home in Franschhoek.  Louise is a female-owned design store in Observatory Cape Town.

Any upcoming events or up-and-coming artists that we need to know about?

The Koena Art Institute curates’ exhibitions and events led authentically by indigenous peoples telling their stories uninfluenced. Indigenous stories on a first account.

Weekly Drawing life sessions are held every Monday evening with Terence Visagie Attilier from 5.30pm – 8.00pm.

Contemporary dance takes place with Darion Adams every Second Saturday.

Every first Saturday of the month we have indigenous rights training and we offer a range of cultural preservation events i.e…

The CONVERSATION & CONCERT SERIES… This series is dedicated to the preservation of music culture and music industry practitioners. The first edition will honour guitarist and composer, of note, Alvin Dyers.

This thoroughbred, jazz guitarist and consummate educator is set to share the story behind his journey, to date. The conversation will be paired with performances by, DYERS and four younger contributors to jazz, Abigail Petersen, Darren English, Heinrich Frans, Jed Petersen and Wesley Rustin. Find out more about bookings via WhatsApp on (078) 995 1329.

Visit Koena Art Institute for more info.

 

 


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