SOUTH AFRICA – Wezart, an online art marketplace has been acquired by Johannesburg-based event organiser African Fashion International (AFI).

Launched in 2016, Wezart focuses solely on new-age African identity in fashion and art, allowing Africans to sell their modern contemporary creations as efficiently as possible.

The startup helps artists in creating a virtual gallery, making online sales and tracking their monthly income.

Wezart has now been acquired by AFI, as part of a strategic plan by AFI to become a digital hub for Africa’s creative industry, with interconnectivity between fashion, art and music.

The artwork from the online marketplace will be exhibited during AFI Fashion Week in Cape Town in March.

“African Fashion International has over the years successfully propelled many African designers globally. Fashion, art and music are connected, and this acquisition is in line with AFI’s growth strategy,” said AFI Founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe.

Wezart managing director, Sihlesenkosi Majola, said; “The acquisition by AFI of Wezart is an important step in the right direction for the business as it will now be able to provide a strong user base for the artists. I will continue working with AFI to reintroduce Wezart to a bigger market and help artists in Africa grow.”

The startup was formed after managing director Sihle Majola attempted to buy artwork online and found what was available did not resemble the South Africa he saw every day.

“In galleries, artwork was all of jungles and African peoples’ faces. When I asked my fellow artist friends, they told me a story of how the art industry only focuses on selling African art that shows what the world believes is African art,” Majola said.

“They told me that artists could not make a living as their art is not sold in galleries. There was an African story that was not being shown to the world,”.

So Majola set about creating Wezart, focusing on contemporary African art that could not easily be found in galleries.

“African art of townships and cities did not have a place in the arts community, according to curators and galleries. The art industry is very colonised.

“We also found a close relationship between African art and African fashion. In Africa, fashion and art are one and the same thing. They are both forms of expression of creativity,” he said.

Majola has funded Wezart himself but has grown the number of users up to 600 per day. This came after a slow start, but some press attention saw a steady climb in traffic.