UBUSO and Crown Chakra: Inspire, Empower, Elevate

Head dress and hair has been an integral feature of black history – from African tribal styles to dreadlocks and the afro. Ancient African communities fashioned their hair for more than just style. Hair was a sacred cultural and spiritual symbol. Headwear and hairstyles not only enhance and beautify the head, but often communicate personal and cultural knowledge and attitudes about the human experience.

Till this day, the expression of beauty through hairstyles, has been a long-standing signature of Black culture. From the “fro” to hair wraps, to braids, black women use their hairstyles as a personal expression of who they are. This treatment of hair also provides insight into the evolution of Black culture over time; an evolution which has brought us to a time when more and more Black women are embracing the natural beauty of their own hair and interpretations of traditional head dress. What is also clear, is a growing movement of female empowerment – by women, for women. The “crown” is a metaphor for this female empowerment.

It is the ultimate symbol of strength and courage, but it also signifies someone who serves her people with dedication, diplomacy, and determination.

When Dirk Durnez from Art@Africa, a Cape Town V&A Waterfront based art gallery, met Vuyo Oyiya, he was intrigued by Vuyo’s massive headwrap, or as she calls it “Doek”. After Vuyo explained her interpretation of Doek, Dirk told Vuyo “You are living art”, and so the idea was born to turn her Doek into permanent sculptures. A year later, the first doek-sculpture was made at Kunye Colab studios, and showcased in the Art@Africa gallery, where it was almost immediately purchased by a European art collector. This was the start of a great collaboration between Vuyo and Kunye Colab.

Kunye is a collaboration between young emerging artists under the direction of Cape Town based, Belgian-born, imagineer & impresario Dirk Durnez, who – in the final phase of his career – decided to transfer his 38 years of international experience and know-how in themed construction, edutainment and art toward young, emerging artists.

The Crown Shakra – at V&A Waterfront

“For an artist to buy canvas and paint is easy”, says Dirk’s wife and business partner, Katlijn Pynket. “For sculptures and 3D works, the bar is much higher. Often, emerging sculptors have no access to expensive materials and equipment needed to create sculptures. That’s why we assist young and promising sculptors to create a career for themselves by offering them a stocked and equipped studio through scholarship, residencies, and training programs. We often invest in production and bronze casting.”

From a very young age, Dirk was immersed in a very diverse artistic biotope; his grandfather was a classical marble sculptor, his dad was a jazz musician with classical and orchestral training, and his mom a silk–painter & flower-artist. Dirk was involved in themed construction for museum -, science-, edutainment – and art centres in 27 countries before finally settling in South Africa in 1996 where he was involved in many groundbreaking projects for which he employed and guided over 500 artists and over 800 artisans.

“We believe that talent does not lie across the ocean but right in our backyard. Tied into this we do not believe in the white cube gallery space that is only digestible for a select few but rather believe that art should be enjoyed by all “, says Dirk. He continues; “We celebrate one of the most diverse countries in the world, and Kunye Colab, our multi-coloured and genderless icon, stands for how art unites us. It is time to give back to the country that has given me so many creative opportunities”.

When Dirk approached the V&A Waterfront to add a monumental sculpture celebrating African Identity to their public art offering, they recognised the opportunity to engage visitors and art-lovers alike, in a multi-activity campaign that aimed to make art digestible to all, with demo’s, activities and ‘meet-and-greets’ with the artists.
It took Kunye Colab 3 months to produce the 3-meter-high sculpture. In line with Art@Africa’s and the V&A Waterfront’s values, the sculpture is made in EcoStone, a sustainable water-based composite, used for the first time by Dirk’s company for the themed construction of Canal Walk. The formidable V&A Marketing team, under the direction of Tinyiko Mageza, prepared a massive campaign to unroll during the month of August, with the slogan “This is how I wear my crown”, starting on Woman’s Day. During the month of August, over 400,000 people engaged with the campaign.

Karla de la Bat, placemaking coordinator at the V&A Waterfront stated that “The V&A Waterfront is Africa’s most popular tourist destination hosting over 25 million visitors per year. We recognise that public art is a powerful tool to communicate important messages, and an essential part of our public space offerings. The installation of Crown Chakra, already a beloved piece in our free and accessible, open-air gallery, is proof of how crucial messages can be shared in fun and alternative ways.”



V&A Waterfront team headed up by Tinyiko Mageza and Karla De La Bat


The ARt@Africa and Kunye Colab Team


Unveiling of Crown Chakra

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