Lonely Planet Writer

South Africa’s first art gallery dedicated to illustration and animation opens in Cape Town

In a slightly run-down corner of a Cape Town suburb, two friends are hoping to quietly transform the South African art scene with a very different type of gallery; one dedicated to animation and illustration.

The cafe and gallery space aims to be a home for animators and illustrators. Image by Ahem!
The cafe and gallery space aims to be a home for animators and illustrators. Image by Ahem!

After being inspired by London’s Illustration Cupboard, artist Thea de Klerk found there was nowhere in Cape Town for art not considered ‘fine art’ and decided to change that. Ahem! Art Collective opened in April this year to showcase a diverse range of local and international artists and offer a space where animators and illustrators can finally get offline and display their work in the real world.

Ahem! Art Collective is the first illustration and animation art gallery in South Africa, and Thea says it’s possibly the first in the entirety of Africa. Along with her business partner Barbara, she hopes the space will be key in developing the country’s burgeoning animation industry.

The gallery showcases work by both international and local artists. Image by Ahem!
The gallery showcases work by both international and local artists. Image by Ahem!

Thea spoke to Lonely Planet and said that as well as providing a home for local artists, they can’t wait to welcome travellers passing through. “Anyone who loves cartoons and children’s books will especially find themselves at home among the freelancers who wander in to doodle and work on projects when they don’t feel like being lonely at home.”

The location of the gallery also offers visitors a chance to explore the neighbourhood of Observatory, which is the home of many students and artists. The area’s cheaper bars and restaurants sometimes attract budget backpackers but can be often overlooked by the mainstream. Thea says their cafe is the perfect spot to “enjoy the world of bohemian observatory passing by the full length windows.” She also hopes their move into the Lower Main Street neighbourhood will further help increase its profile and attraction to locals and visitors.

Artists and art-lovers can also get their all-day breakfast fix. Image by Ahem!
Artists and art-lovers can also get their all-day breakfast fix. Image by Ahem!

As well as exhibitions, there are workshops for all ages and a cafe with an art-themed menu. Patrons can order the Muse (muesli) or the Van G-Oats (porridge). Ahem! Art Collective is open everyday from 8am to 5pm and you can find more information on their Facebook page.