Bagging the best of Jo'burg

Bag Factory director Sara Hallatt with Upright Man by Thenjiwe Nkosi. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Bag Factory director Sara Hallatt with Upright Man by Thenjiwe Nkosi. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Hallatt (30) has been the director at the Bag Factory Artists' Studios in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, since April last year.

The 21-year-old venue – a place of germination for many ideas in the city – needed to take the next step in its evolution.

Hallatt, who has a background in theatre – she studied at the University of the Witwatersrand and specialised in set design – seems well positioned to bring some structure to the studios and the attendant gallery.

Earlier this year the Bag Factory hosted a clutch of international artists in the Tupelo workshop residencies. Last year, and again in September this year, it had a presence at the Jo'burg Art Fair, indicating that this humble institution situated in a quiet warehousing district, which has been a training ground for many innovative practitioners, is beginning to make its presence felt.

It is now on a fund­raising drive with the intention of renovating its space – a place of many great ­parties.

What are you reading now?
I am reading Love in a Cold Climate, a novel by Nancy Mitford published in 1949. The title is a direct quotation from George Orwell's 1936 novel, Keep the Aspidistra Flying.
Set in the early 1900s, the novel deals with love and marriage and the expectation that a woman's duty is to marry well.

Where do you like hanging out?
I like to stay close to home, so I oscillate between the Troyeville Hotel, Melville, 44 Stanley Avenue, Kitchener's and Maboneng. These places are young and edgy; sometimes a ­little pretentious, but mostly filled with like-minded creative people – people I like to interact with.

What music are you playing in your car?
Nina Simone's The Colpix Years, Sheryl Crow's Sheryl Crow, Paul Simon's Graceland and Annie Lennox's Medusa.

When you want to escape Jo'burg, which space do you like to visit?
I go to a little village called Rhodes in the northeastern Cape to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Actually, I think my soul lives in Rhodes and my body has to go back every year to visit it.

Which parts of the city do you like?
I like the parts that have character and a story. These are the Johannesburg City Library, the Rand Club, the Carlton Centre and Anstey's Building – places that come from a different time and are now being reimagined.

What is your favourite food?
French onion soup and mushroom risotto.

What is the last film you watched that blew you away?
I recently watched Made in Dagenham (2010), a dramatisation of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant in the United Kingdom, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination. Through their brave and ­spirited industrial action they managed to change laws regarding the pay scales for female workers.

Wine or beer?

Cheese or chocolate?
Cheese, no wait, chocolate, hmm, no, cheese – oh darn it – just say both. I am greedy.

Do you watch TV and what is your favourite show?
I do watch TV, although sometimes I watch too much. At the moment I am obsessed with Downton Abbey, followed by Alphas and Fringe.The Bag Factory Artists' Studios, 10 Mahlatini Street, Fordsburg. Tel: 011 834 9181. Website:

Percy Zvomuya

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