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New irreverent 'Church' to upturn Cape Town's art scene Article Image

New irreverent 'Church' to upturn Cape Town's art scene

Posted on 23 September 2021

An unconventional black-owned art space in tune with our times

A quasi temple dedicated to art is due to open in Cape Town. Named Church, this new project space, which will welcome the public from October 8th, alludes to a religious sanctuary. Some of the rituals enacted in it will align with its title - such as openings taking place on a Sunday morning. Instead of veritable 'sermons' will be discussions about the ways art, life and politics are entangled.

The location of this novel art destination on Church Street also informs its title. With its bold gold facade it marks itself out as a special venue despite the diminutive dimensions of this heritage building and will stand out among its neighbours in this inner city art node.

Cape Town is ripe for a black-owned space and one that isn't purely driven by commercial interests. Radical shifts that have taken place around the world since Covid-19 with movements such as #blacklivesmatter gaining momentum and artists embracing more independence motivated professionals Hoosein Mahomed and Shelleen Maharaj to establish an alternative space for art.

Church owners,  Shelleen Maharaj and Hoosein Mahomed
Church owners, Shelleen Maharaj and Hoosein Mahomed

"My interest in contemporary art has never waned. Looking at art helps us step back and gain perspective. It allows us to see and understand the world with a heightened sense of self-awareness. The lockdown, its resultant isolation, and this sort of social purgatory caused me to become deeply introspective about how I envisioned the future. I kept going back to the things I loved most, this naturally being the arts," says Mahomed.

Despite its tongue-in-cheek connection to religion, Church is conceived as an unconventional art space where received dogma can up upturned. There will be no rules. No set programming nor will it be characterised by any type of art or approach. It is intended as a space that is regularly 'turned over' to an individual or set of individuals in the art community, providing a platform to take risks, test-boundaries, ideas or elicit conversations that might not be accommodated in conventional galleries or museum spaces in this city.

"We wanted to create a space that felt less prescriptive. A space that moved with the times, was more fluid and responded to the art community's needs. We want to encourage artists, curators, academics, poets, musicians and journalists to come forward and make proposals to take over the space. We wanted to move away from this notion of curation, possessiveness, ownership, capitalism and encourage a more welcoming and all-encompassing synergy with the art community as a whole," says Mahomed.

Thania Petersen artwork
Thania Petersen will present the inaugural exhibition at Church. Her 'passion gap' sculptures will adorn the compact gallery’s façade and relate to her work on the Cape 'creole' identity.

The first artist to pick up the mantle Church presents is fittingly a local artist advancing repressed narratives about Cape Town's so-called Cape-Malay population. Thania Petersen's "garden of passion gaps" - artificial foliage dotted with models of mouths parading missing front teeth (the passion gap) - which will adorn the facade of Church during its opening programme will no doubt stop traffic.

The Church is designed to accommodate multi-media works. It boasts a room designed for filmic works to be screened. A veritable modern-day fresco can be realised via a lightbox fixture on the ceiling. A vitrine at the facade of the building can accommodate a live performance or installation that can be enjoyed by passers-by.

With its 'fluid' programming married to its irreverent link to religion this small art destination will keep locals and visitors to the city on their toes.

"The Church is not only a church in name. If you have something to say and need a platform, our Sunday Sessions will provide the space to present new ideas and conversations," assures Mahomed.

Church is located at 36 Church Street, Cape Town. Open to the public from 8th October. Aside from the first Thursday of the month Church will be open Friday to Sunday. For more information, email

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