#MyJoburg with Kay Kay Ribane, visual artist and co-founder of USURPA Gallery

16 Aug 2023
In our #MyJoburg series, we speak to people that add something unique to Joburg's creative mix and get the lowdown on what enthrals them about this city. 
The gallery is a natural habitat for Kay Kay Ribane. Photo: Kay Kay Ribane via Instagram. 

Born in Joburg, Kokona "Kay Kay" Ribane is a multidisciplinary artist renowned for his work across artistic realms. As a co-founder of Dear Ribane (a creative collective comprising siblings Tebogo, Manthe and Kay Kay), Mungu Creative Lab (a brand for little explorers) and now the first digital fine art NFT gallery in Africa, USURPA Gallery (that's just opened a physical space in Joburg), Ribane consistently pushes boundaries, challenging traditional norms and strives to reshape the narrative surrounding art, fashion, culture and identity. 

Ribane's artistic journey is characterised by a fervent desire to provoke thought, ignite conversations and bring about change through creative expression. We met up with Ribane at Design Week Joburg this month and were intrigued to learn more about what fuels this creative powerhouse.  

"What makes someone a Joburger? Hard work."

Kay Kay Ribane's Mungu Creative Lab is a brand for little fashionable explorers. Photo: Mungu via Instagram. 

Your latest project, USURPA Gallery, has positioned itself in name as an upstart in the art world. Why?
USURPA’s sole mission is to empower African artists through a decentralised platform that introduces digital art as a modern form of fine-art investment.

Tell us about your plans for the new gallery that has opened at 70 Oxford Road in Rosebank? 
We currently have our first two-day workshops which we had envisioned for our tech labs, that we want to have right through Africa. We want to educate people more about the digital art world and where the world is going. Access is a very important thing in the country. We want to be able to help inform as many people about this new way of experiencing art [and] to create phenomenal art exhibitions with technology.
Usurpa Gallery Photo: Johannesburg in Your Pocket
USURPA Gallery on Oxford Road in Rosebank is set to become a disruptive art destination.
Photo: Johannesburg in Your Pocket.

What is the future of art? 
The art world has been faced with a new medium to [create an] experience. The new technology allows new ways of storytelling. The African narrative is emerging with innovation. Technology is an infinite canvas that you can code for the future. African optimism, with technology, is on the rise.
Inside the gallery – artwork at USURPA is all-digital and displayed on screens. Photo: USURPA Gallery.

Why should anyone invest in art NFTs?
An NFT is a digital collectable. In other words, it's a digital proof of ownership. Collectors now have the chance to dive further and deeper into the art as there are more layers of provenance embedded within the artwork that essentially gives the artwork its own life. Artworks can now breathe, move, wink, smile, shatter and move by day and night. This is simply a never-ending canvas and we allow artists to create art that was never thought of ever being created. What is important to note, is that artists now receive royalties going forward after every sale in the secondary market. You are not only investing in the art, you are now investing in the artist and the community.

Who is the one artist whose work you would love to own? Digitally or physically? 
Daniel Arsham, a multidisciplinary American artist.
The Bronze Garden by Daniel Arsham. Photo: James Law via The Spaces Magazine. 

You have to choose – art or fashion? 
Both, fashion is another form of art expressed.

You have to choose – rent or clothing?

As someone who likes to embody art, if you could be one artwork – what would you choose?
Dear Ribane's Hologram Artwork on the Moon.

You seem to have mastered co-founding new initiatives. What's the secret to collaborating successfully? 
It's about learning the power of collaboration, working with the teams that have the qualities you desire, and having a strong and powerful team that can and wants to change narratives and the future. It's all powered by alignment. 
Inside Circa gallery in Rosebank
Inside Circa Gallery in Rosebank. Photo: Johannesburg in Your Pocket. 

You come from a family of creatives. Tell us about what influenced you growing up? 
My father and mother instilled a powerful way of experiencing art from a young age. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by my sisters who are pioneers in the future of African narratives. 

You have an inimitable sense of style. Three clothing items you can't do without? 
Sunnies, loafers and a suit.
Home is...
USURPA Gallery.

Your favourite Joburg suburb, and why you choose it?
Rosebank, as there is an immense amount of art and culture around the area.

What three things should a visitor not leave Joburg without seeing or experiencing?
USURPA Gallery, Nirox Sculpture Park and Orlando Towers.

The most memorable meal you have eaten in Joburg?
A Nando's mild chicken wrap, always the go-to.

If you could buy one Joburg building what would it be?
Rosebank's Everard Read Gallery and Circa Gallery

If you are the Joburg mayor for one day (the average tenure) what would you change?
Open up a tech lab that provides access to those with limited materials and reach to the new technologies.

Favourite Joburg label?
[Clothing brand] Wanda Lephoto.
Joburg clothing label Wanda Lephoto S/S 2024 collection entitled 'PEOPLE'. Photo: Wanda Lephoto via Instagram.

What makes someone a Joburger?
Hard work.

What do you love most about Joburg?
The vibrancy of diversity and the art [and] culture scene.

What do you least like about Joburg?
The crime and poverty.

Your number-one tip for a first-time visitor to Joburg?
Go to galleries!

The perfect weekend in Joburg includes...
USURPA Gallery, Nirox Sculpture Park and BlackBrick.

Three words that describe this city
Art, culture, hustle.

Check out some of our previous #MyJoburg interviews for more insights into the city:

#MyJoburg interview with entrepreneur, Olwethu Leshabane
#MyJoburg interview with Banele Khoza, artist and founder of BKhz Gallery.
#MyJoburg interview with Lelowhatsgood, creative trailblazer and founder of the VNJ Ball.
#MyJoburg with Charles Leonard, DJ and host of 'This is Joburg' podcast.

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USURPA Gallery


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