HEI Café is remarkable. Snuggled behind an alleyway opposite the Easy Hotel in De Korte Street,the interior of the cafe is the embodiment of high art and vintage chic. The walls are decked with paintings of black icons such as Biko, and vintage. This past Saturday was the relaunch of the cafe. We caught up with HEI’s Creative Director, Edlin Chuene, to ask him about the launch and the future of art in South Africa. Here’s what went down:
What is HEI Café?
HEI is a social café born from the Hillbrow Entrepreneurship Initiative. We’re registered as a social enterprise – which means our primary goal is the goodwill of society.We wanted to find an office space where we could generate capital and provide platforms for artists to showcase their work. Ideally, we want to change the perception that artists can’t make money in South Africa.
What’s your hope for today’s launch?
“Well, first and foremost, we want to pull in the right market. Our previous clients didn’t really want to spend money. Last year we used to pull in students who would just sit and use the Wi-Fi the whole day (laughs). Secondly, what we want to do is provide platforms for artists. We understand that you can’t build an economy on art, but we can build an economy that supports art. This is where we’re starting that economy.”
What do you think is the future of art in South Africa?
“I’d like to see more of this. People should establish more social ventures and continue developing Braamfontein as a social, artistic space. There’s a lot of money to be made from the art scene in Johannesburg. We just need to find ways to tap into it.”
All in all, judging the success of the launch is a bit complicated. HEI caters for a very specific niche,so the event was never going to pull in a massive crowd. But the people who were there had a good time and they had a lively debate about the future of the South African art scene. If you’re into good food, wine and great art, HEI is just the place to be.
Visit them here: 87 De Korte Street (the building opposite the Easy Hotel). Go up the alleyway at the side of the building (on Melle Street or Reserve Street) and you’ll find them. Or, just visit their Facebook page
Check out our photo gallery of the event here.
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