Education workshop at the Bag Factory, Johannesburg, 2010. Courtesy Triangle Network
One of Johannesburg’s leading visual arts organizations, the Bag Factory has been alive and kicking since 1991, when the space was set up to provide studios for artists–mainly black artists, who at that stage, had very little access to networks and resources in order to build their careers. It was one of the first collective studio spaces for visual artists in South Africa and has held its downtown ground in the rapidly evolving metropolis of Johannesburg by rising daringly to the moment’s headline. Since its inception, the Bag Factory has focused on developing a program that stands for inclusion and diversity, built on an idea of open access.
Over the years, the Bag Factory has provided a vital stomping ground for many well-established South African artists who have been associated with the collective at different moments in its history. From Kendell Geers and Penny Siopis, to Dominic Tshabangu, Deborah Bell, Rookeya Gardee, Verna Jooste, Claudette Schreuders, Stephen Maqashela, Alan Alborough, Ben Arnold, Tamar Mason, Kay Hassan, Fatima Fernandes, and Paul Emmanuel, a hugely diverse array of artists, each with his or her own distinctive style and voice, has passed through the corrugated garage doors that open onto the airy studios within.