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Shade Brixton Is SA's First 'Greenhouse Gallery'

A former grocery store in the lively suburb of Brixton, Johannesburg, is now Shade Brixton – the home of exciting collaborations between artists and plants.

Sarah de Pina

Shade Brixton | House and Leisure

A former grocery store in the lively neighbourhood of Brixton, Johannesburg, has found new life as Shade — a ‘greenhouse gallery’ for which some of South Africa’s most prominent and exciting artists are creating living, growing artworks. Within its dark charcoal-coloured rooms you’ll find work by artworld faves including Lady Skollie, Io Makandal, Lezanne Viviers and Nonku Phiri, who are just the first crew bringing their creations to this botanical haven.

ALSO READ: Lezanne Viviers Launches Her Eponymous Clothing Label

The space, in an unassuming corner building in a thoroughly suburban road, is the latest creative spot to open in the area. Aside from the artists and media personalities who call Brixton home (such as architect Thomas Chapman and 26’10 South Architects) one of House and Leisure’s favourite Joburg hangouts, Breezeblock, is just around the corner.

It’s this creative mix of people, and the promise of the suburb, that Shade founder Tamzyn Botha – also known by her artist name, Limb – is so passionate about. 

Shade Brixton | House and Leisure

‘The road on which Shade operates is a massive thoroughfare for school kids and people from the surrounding areas,' says Botha. 'It's [the location of] many hellos and convos, and I can definitely feel a great sense of wonder from passers-by — many having known the previous owner, Tsu. She ran the store for over 30 years as a small grocer and lived on the premises. She put all three of her children through university and every day people ask me how she is doing. In October, along with some lecturers from Wits University, I’ll be doing an anthropological exhibition on Tsu, her father – who ran his shop in the Breezeblock building – and the rest of her family. There are so many areas in the building that hold such amorous nostalgia for the neighbourhood, and it’s important for her story, and that of the other residents, to be told.’ 

We spent some time with Botha, learning more about this exciting new space.

5 Minutes with Shade Brixton Founder Tamzyn Botha

Shade Brixton | House and Leisure
Tamzyn Botha a.k.a Limb, artist, DJ and founder of Shade, stands next to one of her own 'art pots' in the space (pink pot, bottom left).

Why Brixton?

Its charm, absolutely. It’s just off the trendy areas situated around us, it’s extremely culturally diverse and has a strong sense of community. As much as I’d like to bring new folk into the area, it’s as important to make a space for locals to explore and engage with. Also, I live two roads up, so it’s a stroll down the road for me.

ALSO READ: At Home with Architect Thomas Chapman

Why the name Shade?

Figuratively: in the blaring sun, a place of rest. As for the plants, my plants are mostly shade-lovers. And, for the art, it's about taking the ‘white cube gallery’ into a space housed more for freeform agendas, for artists, across the spectrum of lightness to dark – a place to rest from social expectation and for us to explore honest improvisation. 

Shade Brixton | House and Leisure
Art pots by Nonku Phiri (bottom left) paired with an Aeschynanthus longicaulis, and Lady Skoliie's pot filled with Neoregelia 'High Voltage'. 
Shade Brixton | House and Leisure
Artist Io Makandal's pot, paired with an Escargot begonia.

Tell us about the art pots. 

Often, exhibiting artists and emerging ones are boxed, by the galleries, by society and by their own illusions. The artist pots are really just a fun way for me to pay homage to both the art and plants. [An opportunity] for artists to do something separate from their own work, a soft challenge... New artists will exhibit each month and it’s overwhelming to get such support from them, and for them to be so open to working outside of their medium as well - like musicians, such as Nonku Phiri, crossing over, and so on.

What’s the biggest mistake people make when looking after indoor plants?

Like animals or children, treating them all the same. They are individuals and develop uniquely according to how you raise them. Play them music; they are listening. 

Shade Brixton | House and Leisure

How would you recommend someone go about selecting the perfect plant for their pot? 

My general rule of thumb is tall plant, short pot and vice versa. After the necessities for the plant's optimum wellbeing are sorted out, the marriage of the plant's hue and texture with the pot's shape and expression is important to consider. From here, with no rules, you can just play. My own taste tends to frolic in the realms of kitsch, but with Shade I’m trying to cover varied bases – the tastes of all kinds of people.

Shade Brixton | House and Leisure

Plastic plants: yay or nay? 

Nay for the production of them, but for plants made from recycled or collected plastics: absolutely. Exciting projects to be released soon at Shade in line with this are plant sculptures made from recycled plastic bottles, in collaboration with our country's true green warriors, the reclaimers. Watch this space. 

What’s coming up at Shade that we can look forward to?

We only open at weekends, but each month we will release a programme of various experiences. This month we still have a Colour from Stone workshop with the Wits Origins Centre curator and archeologist Dr Tammy Reynard [learning to make pigment powders and paint from ochre and shale], and at the end of the month we have an eco-printing workshop with Ubu Botanicals. Ultimately, funds made from Shade go back into the artist residency programme that happens in the workshop spaces, and [pieces are] installed in Shade and the surrounds. An exhibition then opens to the public, with invited residency musicians. The musicians will write a sonic response to the work and, later, in using the physical works created in the residency, a music video will be made. We’re putting emphasis on improvisation across media. This is Shade's attempt to organically finance the creations, and the curation of the project. 

Shade Brixton | House and Leisure

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