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Emthonjeni Art

EMTHONJENI ARTS is the new name for the International Artists’ project that has been 'in development at Hamburg at the mouth of the Keiskamma River in the former Ciskei for the past five years.

It is a flagship project of ASPIRE - the Amathole Economic Development Agency which has managed capital investment of R35.1 m (National Department of Tourism and National Treasury ) and has now raised the bulk of the funding required to support the operational development  of the project over the coming three years to 2016/17 through DEDEATs LREDS fund with R6m.

In addition ASPIRE is managing a regeneration programme for the Town Centre and promoting a Vision for the future of the town - developed with the local community and the local Municipality Ngqushwa - as a:

Vibrant, artistic and natural coastal town, where people can enjoy a low key, small-scale, ecological, and self-sufficient community  – sufficient in jobs, food and quality of life.

To support the realisation of this vision for the town, the Artists' Residency, will offer a range of opportunities for International, National or more local artists - whether individuals or small groups - to spend time in this exceptional location.

Artists would be able to enjoy solitude or the opportunity to connect to the local community, Xhosa culture more widely or other residents whilst maintaining connection digitally via fast broadband if desired. The Residency will also be particularly suited for intensive small arts group's/company's training and development programmes within the arts and culture field.

The Residency contains 22 bedrooms in single or double units, a Craft, Dance and Digital Studio, a small lecture/performance theatre and a gallery as well as a range of flexible spaces both at the Residency site and in the town suitable for all art forms.

The Residency Project has been known by many names in its short life including an Artist's 'Colony', and an Artist's Retreat. With the buildings now nearing final completion, the project was renamed EMTHONJENI ARTS at a simple ceremony on the site on September 29th.

Emthonjeni is an isiXhosa word derived from the word umthombo, meaning a ‘well’ or a ‘source’.  It is the Xhosa name for the town of Hamburg and carries the meaning “by the well”.

Emthonjeni Arts

EMTHONJENI ARTS is a Section 21 company with a Board combining local, provincial, national and international expertise:                   

The Board have adopted a revised statement of the Vision, Mission and Aims of the Project:


EMTHONJENI ARTS' world class arts and cultural programmes- in its buildings, in the local community and beyond - will be an integral part of the social and economic regeneration of Hamburg Town Centre and its surrounding areas


To create a unique and celebrated space in South Africa's arts landscape and use it as a catalyst for economic growth and social and cultural development


  • to build, maintain, manage and operate an Artists' Residency of international standard within the Town of Hamburg
  • to offer artists from the locality, Province, South Africa, Africa and beyond the opportunity to be 'in residence'
  • to work with the communities of the Ixesi river to offer opportunities for creative cultural engagement for resident artists
  • to promote the development of the cultural and creative industries in Amathole, maximising their contribution to the economy;
  • to participate in coordinating frameworks for community development and the growth of local businesses
  • to work to stimulate cultural tourism by programming and by assisting with the marketing of Hamburg, the river valley and Amathole.

Emthonjeni Arts

The renaming ceremony on 29th September was also a celebration of the practical completion of the building works which have created an arts resource of international standard.

Most importantly, the ceremony saw the beginning of the two year 'operational development' phase of the project designed to:

  • allow the new management team currently being recruited to fit out the buildings drawing on local skills and suppliers to the maximum extent possible
  • train a local workforce to operate and service the centre
  • strengthen existing local service providers and encourage new local start-ups in such fields as food production, transport and cultural production
  • work alongside the ASPIRE Town Centre redevelopment team  towards a combined opening in 2014. (The town centre programme goes on site in January 2013 to create a new Town Centre including: a Market Square; small amphitheatre; Environmental study and visitor centre; coffee shop; creche; woodland playground; Bicycle project and new/replacement facilities for the Craft workshop and retail and Music Academy components of the Kesikamma Trust)
  • provide a series of artists opportunities - local, provincial, national and international - to be 'Resident in Regeneration' within the two year development programme of Emthonjeni Arts at the Residency, in the town centre and in the wider 'cultural catchment' of the residency programme which is seen as stretching up the Keskamma/Ixesi river to its sources in the Hogsback and at Keiskammahoek (a journey also mirrored by the R345 as it passes through Peddie, the Doubledrift nature reserve, Alice and the Tyhume Valley)

The introduction of this development year in order to secure the maximum long term direct economic benefit to the local community was the principal recommendation of the first phase of work undertaken by consultants, Isiseko Senkonjane (The Swallows Foundation) engaged by ASPIRE to provide operational support to the project until April 2013 working through and alongside the ASPIRE Project Manager..

The Board is now seeking to recruit a Director and three senior managers to drive the project forward through the development phase to full opening.

Visit Emthonjeni Arts website at

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