ARTFUL IN­DUS­TRY Her light-filled home in Melville re­flects art ad­vi­sor Mak­gati Mole­batsi’s great­est pas­sion

This art ad­vi­sor’s mod­ern Melville home in Jo­han­nes­burg show­cases a life­long love af­fair with her big­gest pas­sion


stat­uesque and smil­ing Mak­gati Mole­batsi opens a bright red-or­ange door to reveal the mod­ern, in­dus­trial-style home she has been liv­ing in for the past 14 years in Melville, Jo­han­nes­burg. Pre­vi­ously owned by South African ar­chi­tect Xavier Huy­berechts, Mak­gati’s abode – adorned in a pal­ette of greys, black and off-white with splashes of or­ange and red – mir­rors her cool and col­lected per­son­al­ity, oc­ca­sion­ally pep­pered with bursts of gig­gles and a bright, warm light that comes to her eyes when she talks about her pas­sion: art.

At the en­trance hangs a for­mi­da­ble work by Liz Grob­ler, a huge sculp­ture of in­ter­linked keys that Mak­gati says she’d wanted since the day she laid eyes on it at the now de­funct Brun­dyn Gallery. When she even­tu­ally ac­quired the piece, she knew ex­actly where it be­longed.

‘So much glass! I love it!’ were the first words out her mouth when she toured the house ini­tially. As you wind your way down the stair­case lead­ing from the liv­ing room to the din­ing area down­stairs, light streams in through the dou­ble-vol­ume win­dows and doors, re­veal­ing a court­yard made for en­ter­tain­ing. Af­ter ren­o­va­tions, tiles, rail­ings and a cus­tom­made stair­case re­placed the orig­i­nal screed and wood, says Mak­gati.

Of­fer­ing to draw the pul­leys that open up the glass doors lead­ing to the court­yard, she says, ‘I of­ten have my art friends stay­ing over when they’re here for ex­hi­bi­tions and fairs.’ It’s clear the space holds happy mem­o­ries of fes­tive gath­er­ings – and the prom­ise of more to come.

As the owner of her two-year-old art con­sul­tancy busi­ness Mak’Dct Art Ad­vi­sory & Agency, Mak­gati’s en­try into the art world was an or­ganic one. Although she fell into it by chance, it was ob­vi­ous that some­thing greater than her­self was steadily push­ing her in that cre­ative direc­tion. Mak­gati was born and raised in Sharpeville in south­ern Gaut­eng, say­ing it was around 1993 and 1994 when artists, mu­si­cians and cre­atives be­gan to visit South Africa in full force, and her friends of­ten roped her into driv­ing them around on a tour of

It’s dif­fi­cult not to men­tally clock all the art and ask where the paint­ings, sculp­tures and in­stal­la­tions are from. Each one’s ac­qui­si­tion has a per­sonal story that ac­com­pa­nies it.

Soweto. It wasn’t long be­fore those artists be­came close friends and teach­ers, school­ing her on the arts and hav­ing in­tel­lec­tual con­ver­sa­tions around her that she qui­etly ab­sorbed.

Twenty years later, Mak’Dct (mean­ing ‘Mak­gati’s an art ad­dict’) was born. The art con­sul­tancy ser­vice, which she has carved out and fine-tuned to suit her per­son­al­ity and com­ple­ment the re­la­tion­ships she’s cul­ti­vated over the years, sees her work­ing closely with col­lec­tors, and kit­ting out their homes or pro­fes­sional spa­ces with con­tem­po­rary African art.

Walk­ing around her home, it’s dif­fi­cult not to men­tally clock all the art and ask where the paint­ings, sculp­tures and in­stal­la­tions are from. Each one’s ac­qui­si­tion has a per­sonal story that ac­com­pa­nies it. ‘The lamp is an Ingo Mau­rer Zet­tel’z 5 that I’d cov­eted for a very long time,’ she says of the sus­pended light fit­ting in the din­ing room. ‘It comes with trac­ing pa­pers, some with mes­sages al­ready printed in dif­fer­ent lan­guages; the other half are blank so I have oc­ca­sion­ally asked din­ner guests to write apho­risms and quotes on them.’

From 1993 until 2015, Mak­gati had an im­pres­sive ca­reer in the cor­po­rate world, work­ing in the ex­pe­ri­en­tial mar­ket­ing space and in­te­grated com­mu­ni­ca­tions from rail to re­tail in­dus­tries. The work af­forded her the abil­ity to travel, es­pe­cially around Africa. ‘ When­ever I vis­ited a city, I would spend at least two full days go­ing to gal­leries and stu­dios,’ she says.

But more sig­nif­i­cantly, in 1997, she vol­un­teered her time work­ing in hospi­tal­ity at the 2nd Jo­han­nes­burg Bi­en­nale, where she or­gan­ised visas, ac­com­mo­da­tion and en­ter­tain­ment for vis­it­ing in­ter­na­tion­als in­clud­ing Nige­rian art cu­ra­tor Ok­wui En­we­zor, Bri­tish di­rec­tor and screen­writer Steve McQueen and Ice­landic-Dan­ish in­stal­la­tion artist Ola­fur Elias­son, among oth­ers.

Hav­ing stud­ied art and busi­ness at Sotheby’s in Lon­don in 2016, Mak­gati cur­rently sits on the board of the Bag Fac­tory Artists’ Stu­dios and serves on their fundrais­ing com­mit­tees. The Bag Fac­tory pro­vides stu­dios and res­i­dency pro­grammes for lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional artists and, although it has been cred­ited as the spring­board for many young lo­cal tal­ents, she points out that many of the women who show great po­ten­tial and pro­duce great work there of­ten don’t go on to pro­duce more. ‘They be­come ab­sorbed in lec­tur­ing or man­ag­ing gal­leries and just stop pro­duc­ing, sadly.’

Mak­gati also pro­vides men­tor­ship within the vis­ual arts sec­tor in Jo­han­nes­burg and par­tic­i­pates in Busi­ness and Arts South Africa’s men­tor­ship pro­gramme. ‘ What I’d like to do is do [a se­ries of ] lec­tures on the value and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art, get more peo­ple to come to ex­hi­bi­tions and ac­quire more art,’ she says.

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