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EC woman launches gallery for rural artists

Siya Miti
An entrepreneur aims to put artists in the picture when it comes to earning a living through their work.

Artist Samkela Stamper has devised a business model to develop the rural artists who inspired her to start an art gallery in Dabhani near Peddie in the Eastern Cape.

The 35-year-old Rhodes University Fine Arts student said she observed that rural people were discouraged from using their artistic gifts because they get peanuts while established art galleries pocket the bulk of any sale proceeds.

“This gift is not even celebrated by people because it makes money for the rest of the world and not for us. My focus is mainly women. I love women and I think they should have their own agent,” said Stamper.

“There is a lot of talent. Most of the art in big galleries comes from rural artists. Look at Esther Mahlangu, her work goes all over the world. However, we are not concerned with developing them beyond crafters. There should be more art galleries in rural areas. Established galleries take 60 percent or even more from sales and very little goes to the artists themselves. We want to change that… All the trends in the arts come from Africa anyway but rural artists are excluded.”

She explained during the decade she lived in Mpumalanga, she met women at arts festivals or on government-funded overseas trips and noted that they had no direct access to art galleries.

It was this observation that inspired her to start the Thandeka Stamper Art Gallery – named after her grandmother and based in rural Dabhani – to help rural women and young artists.

 “Most artists in rural areas have no support and no access to information about funding. Older women who paint have no access to galleries. We are creating an arts residency,” she said, explaining that some funding has been secured from the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

“We want all the artists to have a stake so that we are able to create an outlet for them,” she said, adding that the venture will see a collaboration between learners, youth and artists.