Visual essay | On two years of the BKhz Gallery

The young artist and gallerist reflects on what he has learned about community and collaboration in art since opening the space in Braamfontein.

I could not see past the six-month mark when I started BKhz Gallery on Juta Street in Braamfontein. Then 24 years old, I had planned for three to six months at most. Now, the gallery has been open for two years, and that is worth celebrating.

I chose the location to give back to my younger self. Braamfontein was the place of entertainment and inspiration, where I could see something completely different. I wanted to attract the 18-year-old who could be inspired. We don’t have enough young people who show us we can make it.

The Stevenson Gallery was a major inspiration. Growing up, I always wanted to be in that space. Realising I could create something like it was a game changer. I opened the gallery next to them. It was a beautiful and major moment. 

As I told Dinika Govender, Bkhz is a platform for creatives to showcase their art with a support system. It is the space I wanted when I was breaking into the art market. Most often black creatives are forced to take on too many things to feed their families and their passion. This divides their attention, taking away energy that could go into their projects. We assist the artists we take on to try and enable them towards making art their full-time practice.

It’s a privilege for me to be fully immersed each day in the building of BKhz. As an artist and gallerist, I have learned a lot about myself in the past two years. These are the lessons and the works that have stayed with me. 

Undated: Artwork by Tatenda Chidora, Metamorphosis II (2019-2020). In responding to the pandemic, Banele Khoza says: “We adapt and that has been our strength in the past two years – including making our exhibitions virtual and more widely accessible. Now that has meant the creation of an app and a different space for art to live.”
Undated: Jodi Bieber’s Father and Son Trapeze Act, Market Theatre Precinct, Newtown (circa 1995). Banele Khoza says he is learning to “move with the tide” during the Covid-19 pandemic. As he reflects on his journey as a gallerist, he says: “It is a path that fulfills my soul.”
Undated: Keneilwe Mokoena’s #7531 (2019). Banele Khoza overcame his feelings of inferiority by recognising he was still in the process of seeking answers. He now says: “I have learned that I am seeking the answers and that should be good enough for me to raise my hand in the room, and to reflect – as I am doing now.”
Undated: Heidi Fourie’s Oh I wonder if they were always this dark … Oh they’re jewels (2017). Artist and gallery owner Banele Khoza feels BKhz is home for him – and for everyone who enters it.
Undated: Artwork by Aart Verrips for Thebe Magugu’s Geology collection (2018). “During lockdown [the team and I] have … a two- to three-hour call every Monday,” says gallery owner Banele Khoza. “We sob, laugh and listen to each other. We are a family, after all, one that we choose each day.”

Undated: Manyatsa Monyamane’s Olebogang Konyane (no date). Through opening the gallery and continuing to create art, Banele Khoza says, “I’ve learned to trust myself and listen to my internal compass – it knows the way.”

Undated: Lunga Ntila’s Something keeps calling (2019). Banele Khoza, gallery owner and artist, finds it important to live within his means. “In varsity, I would reward myself with R59 grilled fish and chips each time I made a sale. … Today, it is flowers or a healthy selection of groceries. I still live in the same flat I could afford in varsity.”
Undated: Nelson Makamo’s Untitled (2016-2019). Banele Khoza leads his team with compassion. “My team knows more about my vulnerabilities than my strengths,” he says. “I’ve learned that hiding your insecurities and weaknesses cracks your foundation in leadership – you become inflexible and overly sensitive, responding in fear – and you will be caught out for not having all the answers”
Undated: Artwork by Papi Konopi, It’s yours (2020). “BKhz gallery is about community,” says owner Banele Khoza. “I live with an open hand and understanding that the gains are for everyone around me.”

By Banele Khoza, as told to Danielle Bowler.

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