Durban BAT Centre, Harbour front – “We built it to last!”
That is what the legends say when it comes to their youth culture. The BAT Centre (also known as Emtateni), located along the Durban Harbour, is an art development and community centre with art studios, exhibition galleries, music practice rooms, a dance studio, resource centre and a conference room. Started in 1995, the BAT Centre’s mission is “to celebrate the arts and culture of Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal… by promoting local talent and skills [and to] celebrate our unique cultures…”.
The Austrian entrepreneur and adventurer Hugo Bartel bequeathed a sum a money in his will to establish an arts trust. This Bartel Arts Trust funded the multi-purpose arts centre until 2000, at which time the centre formed a trust of its own, the BAT Centre Trust, which is now responsible for the continued operations of the centre.
The BAT Centre has had a major impact on the cultural life of the people of Durban, with local and international musicians and artists perofrming and exhibiting there regularly. It showcases new talent and creates employment for artists and musicians. The centre has hosted a variety of other events, from fashion shows and drumming evenings to spoken word festivals and workshops.
The BAT Centre has opened doors to the existing and upcoming talents in art and promotes and creates partnerships with international people. Young people of all ages from disadvantaged communities are using the BAT Centre to showcase their skills and talent.
Programmes vary from creative writing, stage performances, and ‘open mic’ sets for poets to jazz music sessions. Workshops are held to help young artists to improve their skills. Idiosyncratic local work and travelling exhibitions are on show in the Democratic Gallery and the Menzi Mchunu Gallery, while the accessible studios offer the opportunity to watch artists at work. The BAT Centre is also a popular music venue. Events held at the BAT Centre such as the Time of the Writer Festival and the Poetry Africa Festival give exposure to the City of Durban and surroundings when it comes to creativity and creating a platform for sharing experiences.