Three and half minutes with Kholisa Thomas .. Founder of The Art Talks, a platform that bridges the gap between art appreciators and the often intimidating art world. She’s smart, stylish and a beauty to look at!
Q: 3 words to describe yourself?
A: Passionate, confident, fun-loving
Q: Tell me about your background & how it led you to where you are today?
I grew up in Port Elizabeth and after matric I studied at Wits University. I then built a successful career in marketing at L’Oreal South Africa and later as a Management Consultant in the Executive Recruitment space but I’ve always had a passion for Contemporary South African art and design. In 2015 I decided to leave my corporate job and embark on creating a niche for myself in the arts, my true passion.
Q: What motivated you to create The Art Talks?
As an art lover and collector, I often felt the art world – made up of art galleries and art fairs – was often stuffy, unapproachable and intimidating. I wanted to bridge a gap for people like myself who were not from the art world, but wanted to deepen their understanding of art and get to know the artists’ work – without feeling intimidated because they did not ‘know’ art.
I wanted to give the emerging art loving and art buying audience a unique opportunity of meeting artists and learning the stories behind their work, which were not only personal, but narrated our own unique collective South African story. That is was what made art appreciation and collecting so exciting for me.
With this in mind I started The Art Talks which initiates a conversation between artists and art fans in a relaxed and social environment. The event takes place in the artists’ studio or a cool urban space in Johannesburg where the city’s true authentic lies.
Q: What does your typical day look like?
A: I’m lucky enough to work from home which really suits my lifestyle as a working mom. So my typical day starts with taking my kids to school, then back home for a healthy breakfast, usually avocado on toast, then sitting down in my home office to start planning my day. I usually go through what meetings and deadlines I have, then I get to it.
The Art Talks are held every other month so most of my work involves planning the event, scouting venues, talking with the artists about what we both want to achieve from it and also dealing with the sponsors of the event to ensure that they get everything they want from the event as well.
I also like to attend art exhibitions, visit artists in the studios and talk to curators and gallerists so I stay in touch with what is going on in the art world.
Q: Sounds lovely! What song best describes your work ethic?
A: Formation by Beyonce
Q: When did you realize your passion for the arts?
I’ve always had a passion for the arts and culture in the broadest sense. I’ve always loved the visual arts, music, writing, poetry and dance. When I was a teenager I did ballet and modern dance, I also did drama and my favourite subject was English so I think my interest started from a young age and I was lucky that my parents encouraged my passions.
Q: Which local artist has caught your eye in the last year?
Tshepo Mosopa, Mbali Mdluli and Frances Goodman
Q: The Art Talks has been becoming more and more popular with audiences, why do you think they have evoked such enthusiastic responses?
A: I think it’s because art and culture is the one thing that binds us together, It reminds us of what we have in common not what separates us. It reminds us of our shared humanity at a time when so many things highlight our differences.
That’s why I believe art is such a powerful connector of people. In the South African context, our artists really tell our unique South African story, our history, our victories and our hopes. I think people really connect with that when they hear the artists’ stories. The Art Talks is also a social event, in between the conversation with the artists, we have a DJ playing great music and people get to network and connect with other like-minded people in a cool urban setting as the event always happens somewhere in the City. I think that connection with other art-loving people and downtown Joburg is one of the reasons people love the event.
Q: You recently hosed a talk with the legendary Sam Nhlengethwa .. How did that come about?
A: The meeting with Bra Sam was really a lesson in believing in your self and just going for it!
Q: That’s incredible?
A: Totally! I asked a friend who knew Bra Sam to introduce us, he agreed and literally that same afternoon he called me to say that he is going to Bra Sam’s studio and asked if I would like to come with him. Initially I thought I’m not prepared but I realized that if I didn’t go then, I may not get another opportunity to do so. So I went, I met him, told him what I do and that I would love for him to be our next speaker. I guess my passion and conviction about what I was doing connect with him. I was blown away when he said he liked the idea of exposing more people to the arts and that he would do it! That day was one of the best days in my new career.
Q: Amazing What would you say is the most rewarding part of what you do?
A: Connecting people to artists, and connecting like-minded people together. I also love it when someone says to me they bought a piece from an artist they heard about from one of my talks, or that they started going to art museums or galleries. My end-goal is to get more people to buy local art and in this way grow our local art market. South Africa has a unique and exceptional creative industry and I think this is something we are already exporting successfully to the world. The more people support our local artists, designers, musicians and writers the more the industry will grow.
Q: If I came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for me?
A: My husband and I recently came back from a trip to Barcelona so I’d prepare a tapas style starter followed by a seafood Paella
Q: Favourite holiday destination?
A: Anywhere with an exciting art scene, Addis Ababa and Berlin are next on my list
Q: Favourite song ever?
A: Bulletproof Soul, Sade
Q: If you could be anyone else for 2 hours, who would it be?
A: Michelle Obama
Q: What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?
A: Follow you dreams and take the shot!
Q: Your favourite Instagram follows?
A I follow a lot of local galleries and local artists if they are on social media as well as all the international art fairs.
My favourite person to follow is Khanyi Dhlomo, she’s inspiring, she always has great educational content like which books to read, which business events to attend, interesting stories about the personalities she features in her magazines or wise words to share about her own personal journey as a black business woman. She is also a great supporter of women in business. I’ll never forget how she re-posted about her experience at my first Art Talks event, which thank God was favourable, and just from her post @thearttalks Instagram and Facebook handles immediately gained so many followers after she did that. She really is an inspiring leader who builds other women up. Also her posts are really funny and her hashtags always have me laughing!
Q: Future plans?
A: Building on The Art Talks platform, making it bigger and better for the artists that trust us with their stories and making it an even better experience for the people that take time out of their lives to support the movement and attend the event.
The Zodiac Collection by Missibaba
What I love the most about Missibaba’s creations is that all their products are 100% handmade and it’s impossible not to observe and appreciate the quality and the highest attention to detail. Their latest collection called The Zodiac reminded me why I fell inlove with them years ago, when I first laid my eyes on one of their pieces…
Inspired by the dazzling constellations dancing across the Buenos Aires Planetarium dome, that’s when the idea to create this collection came about.
They commenced the design process by researching each star sign before embarking on the creative manufacturing journey. When asked for their favourite – they both love the Gemini! “It has opened up a slightly more sensual route of exploration for us which we’re excited to reconnoiter further” says Chloe
Chloe Townsend & Lizel Strydom (the duo behind this gorgeous brand) both have a passion for traditional leather craftsmanship, using only premium vegetable-tanned leather and natural fabrics. Being handmade in limited quantities, no creations are exactly the same, making each piece a unique statement.
The Zodiac Collection makes for the perfect personal gift. Available from the Missibaba stores in Birdhaven and Keyes Art Mile, Johannesburg
For more information, visit www.missibaba.com