Bag Factory Archive Project



Founded in 1991, Fordsburg Artists’ Studios (trading as Bag Factory Artists’ Studios) has a pioneering 30-year history of providing a supportive infrastructure for artists. Crucially, the Bag Factory is unique in combining art making with cultural debate and art exhibitions, thereby creating a fertile international environment for experimentation, innovation, and cultural dialogue between creatives in South Africa and the rest of the world.

The Bag Factory’s crucial role for the arts in South Africa is confirmed by our long list of celebrated alumni who have gone on to develop international and prize-winning careers. They include our co-founder Dr David Koloane, Sam Nhlengethwa, Kagiso Patrick Mautloa, Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi, Bongi Dhlomo-Mautloa, as well as Penny Siopis, Tracey Rose, Kendell Geers, Gabi Ngcobo, Lady Skollie, Blessing Ngobeni, and Bronwyn Katz.

Archives have value to nations and regions, organisations, communities, and individual people. They provide evidence of activities which occurred in the past, they tell stories, document people and identity and are valuable sources of information for research. They are our recorded memory and form an important part of our community, cultural, official, and unofficial history. The Bag Factory has an important place in the story of South Africa’s young democracy. Established just before the end of apartheid, the Bag Factory, like the famous Rorkes Drift Art and Craft Organisation, Polly Street Art School, and Johannesburg Art Foundation, has played a pivotal role in developing South African art, nurturing a range of outstanding black artists. Sadly, the Bag Factory is the only one of all these organisations that remains alive, active, and relevant today. 

Many of the black artists whose careers were launched and sustained by the Bag Factory only received recognition late in their careers, or even after their deaths. The Bag Factory’s archives can provide insight and valuable information into the early careers of these artists. Archives are evidence, history is a story. History is what happened in the past, but what we remember of it is the story we tell. An archive is what helps us piece this story together. A living archive is an active and ongoing process of identifying and addressing gaps in knowledge, information, and memory.



For more information on the project please contact:

Office: +27(0)11 834 9181






The Bag Factory is entering an important period of transition which has been prompted by some key moments: 

  • In 2019, Dr David Koloane, co-founder of the Bag Factory, died at the age of 81. Shortly before he passed, the first major retrospective of his work opened at Iziko South African National Gallery, which later travelled to Standard Bank Gallery and Wits Art Museum. A key part of this exhibition was inclusion of archival material from David’s career as an artist, curator, and critic, as well as his activities with FUBA, the Thupelo Workshops, and the Bag Factory.
  • Included in the building capital campaign are plans to include a purpose-built library and resource centre that will be named after our founding artist Dr David Koloane and will house the Bag Factory’s growing collection of art resources, self-published books, the archives of the organisation’s founding artists, as well as documentation relating to the Bag Factory’s organisation and programme activities which have been collected over the course of the organisation’s 30-year history.
  • In 2021 the Bag Factory officially celebrated its 30th anniversary, marking a momentous occasion for the organisation. In 2020, the Bag Factory finalized the purchase of the building it has called home since its inception in 1991. The building is in a poor state of disrepair and the board and management are preparing to embark on a capital fundraising campaign to carry out a major renovation and extension of the building. The first phase of this plan, an urgent need to carry our major roof maintenance, was completed in 2021.


Collectively, these events have prompted the need for the Bag Factory to embark on a process to permanently preserve the collection of documents or ‘records’ of the Bag Factory’s 30-year history and the artists whose careers it has launched and/or sustained. These records have value as evidence or as a source for art historical research; they need to be properly archived and digitally preserved so that they can be made available to art historical scholars and researchers to serve an active purpose in the present and for future generations.