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100 Paper Sneakers Exhibition in South Africa!

Natalie Wong Sneaker Exchange South Africa Paper Sneaker

Photo above (L-R); Rati Mofokeng, Tebogo Mogola (Co-founder of SXC), Me, Umar Bradlow, Zaid Osman (Co-founder of SXC).

On the 18th November, I found myself sitting on a plane enroute to Johannesburg. It would be my first trip to Africa and it was (without being too dramatic) a life changing experience, for me personally and as an artist.

Around September, I got a message from the team behind Sneaker Exchange asking whether I would be interested in flying down to South Africa to show my work and collaborate on a project with them. Sneaker Exchange (SXC) is an event where sneaker fans come to buy, sell and trade their kicks. SXC has become so popular that the event also features major music acts, drawing in massive crowds each time an event is organised. The SXC team had seen the press coverage of my work and really loved what I was doing. Power Play (also known as Monster), are the official sponsors of SXC and they would sponsor flights and accommodation for me and an assistant.

The idea was to exhibit the 100 Paper Sneakers artwork at the Griffin Sessions on Saturday 26th November. The Griffin Sessions is a massive street culture event held in a large renovated industrial warehouse in Johannesburg. At the event, there would be a main stage where major local acts would perform. There were food stalls and bars, graffiti murals, vintage gaming areas and street wear brand pop ups.

Natalie Wong Paper sneaker exhibition south africa sneaker exchange

Photo above: Visitors at the Griffin Sessions looking at the '100 Paper Sneakers' artwork.

The other part of the trip was to make three new sneaker sculptures which incorporated elements of the history and culture of Johannesburg. A film crew would follow me visiting major landmarks, sneaker stores and film me making each sculpture in a time lapse. The footage would later be put together into a short documentary. The final sneaker sculptures would also be exhibited at the Griffin Sessions.

It was awesome to travel around with the film crew (Umar Bradlow, Rati Mofokeng and Sokhaya Mbiko) who knew the areas so well. We visited Braamfontein, the Soweto township, Nelson Mandela's house, the Cradle of Mankind, the Lion Park, Carfax and Constitutional Hill. You read about these places in newspapers and books but to actually go there physically was something else. To be there to share my art with the sneaker community was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I will be forever grateful to the team for the experience.

Photo above: Day trip to the Orlando Power stations in the famous Soweto Township.

Photo above: Visiting Mandela's house in Soweto, Johannesburg.

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