About Township Art Gallery

Born and bred in Africa's largest township

Welcome To My World 

My name is Alima Mbombo Passa, and I am the owner of Township Art.

When apartheid fell during my teenage years, I suddenly believed a life of my choosing was possible.

I did not have a good education. I could not go to school much as a young girl. My English was not very good, and I did not have any middle class connections to help me up in life.

But I have an African spirit! And I knew my only way to rise, was to get up on my own.

So, with help from my tutor Mr Jackson Nkumanda, I picked up the brush and learned to paint.

Mr Nkumanda showed me how to watch a scene and express what I saw. He showed me how to speak with my brush, and I found that I loved this new language.

I started selling my pieces at local markets such as the Greenpoint Stadium Market and Pan African Market on Long Street.

It took me a lot of work to put a little food on my table, but thankfully I love to paint. And I had no other skills. So I kept working.

One day a customer told me that my paintings were so good, they should be displayed at the V&A Waterfront. I laughed.

The V&A Waterfront was historically a place I was excluded from. What could they want with me?

But he insisted, telling me about Waterfront Craft Market (now called The Watershed), where tiny businesses like mine were supported and showcased. I laughed again, and continued with my life.

Yet that idea grew in my heart and soon I found myself at craft market, where I met Alima, my soon-to-be tenancy manager who had the same name as me.

She gave me a tour and showed me how the operation worked. After an application, I would be given a small space. The V&A Waterfront team would help me set up a shop and train me in the basics of retail.

I could not even believe or imagine it was possible, but Alima helped with everything, and before I knew it I was operating a small and successful shop for my paintings.

I was even prouder when I was able to hire two part-time employees to help me with sales and administration.

Both of my employees grew up in Khayelitsha, like I did. We are all doing our best to improve our lives, which the shop has been pivotal in supporting.

I am very grateful for this help. And I have worked hard with it. If you would like to patronise my ongoing efforts in the face of COVID19’s impact, you can shop for our original handmaid African paintings here.

Alima in her shop Township Art Gallery

Alima Mbombo Passa, owner of Township Art Gallery Cape Town V&A Waterfront (Watershed, shop F26)

Jackson and Alima in Kyelitsha

(L) Jackson Nkumanda with a piece of his artwork in Khayelitsha; (R) Alima and her mentor, Jackson Nkumanda

About The Paintings & Shop

It might surprise you to note that the vast majority of the paintings in my shop and on my website are my own work. I also carry some pieces from my tutor Jackson Nkumanda, and my friends from Khayeitsha, Najim Kanga and Mack Daïda.

All of our artworks are handmade, and incorporate materials we find lying on the ground in the township.  Not only are you buying authentic African art, you will also receive a piece of genuine African recycling!

Everything else is my original. It is not mass-produced, and every piece is an individual — even if they are of the same scene.

Since 2007 I have worked and learned and grown my business. I now am able to pay pocket money to children in the township to help me collect and prepare cans and other metals for my art pieces.

I am proud to employ two sales representatives, also from the same background as me, and to be helping train and up skill them.

I have moved out of the township into a small house, but I keep my daily painting workshop in the same place that birthed, grew and inspired me – Khayelitsha.

It is a modest living I make, but one of which I am very proud.

My hope is that I will be able to pass on something of a legacy to the next generation.

I want to show my own children, and the children of my birthplace, that it is possible to rise to your own potential, even if slowly.

It is my hope that these paintings will one day be called historic artefacts, and not reflections of everyday life for most South Africans.

It is my belief that this is possible. And that one day I, or those who come after me, paint the same joyful community scene in places of prosperity and equality.

Thank you for reading my story. If you would like to buy a piece of authentic African township artwork from Cape Town, please visit our online shop.

Our Story So Far

So far Township Art Gallery is my own walk to freedom and this is what I hope it will do in the world. With help from above, I hope to keep Township Art Gallery open, and to grow the shop on foot and online so that it can continue to support my family and my two assistants' families, plus many more to come.


The end of apartheid in South Africa. I was a young woman. 

1994 to 2000

I learned and practiced my craft, soon turning everyday rubbish and recyclables from Kyelitsha into my art. I watched how hopeful and resilient my people are. 

2000 to 2007 

I sold my paintings at an informal market on Greenpoint Road. I did well with the tourist trade and those who appreciate the life and vibrancy of my work. One day a customer mentioned the Watershed at the Waterfront. I thought he was crazy!

2007 to 2020

That crazy idea planted a seed in me and after visiting the Watershed, I found a home for my small business. With Watershed support, I opened my small shop and within two years was able to hire first one, and then a second, sales assistant. 

March 2020

The world changed and we all went into lockdown. I had hardly any notice to pack up my shop and get home. There I was with three families (including my own) to feed and no income. South Africa has one of the harshest lockdowns and our social support is not enough at R350 per month. I had a choice: sit and starve or make another plan with the luck and talent I am given. 

June 2020 

I took all my savings and paid a local designer to create my website. I thought, "if we can sell in person then we will learn to sell online." That is what we are doing now. It has been a long and rocky road, but we are getting better and the journey. 


South Africa is still in lock down and although we made a few small sales during the semi-lifting, it is imperatice that I and the gang learn our way around a website and ecommerce fast. We are getting help from friends and patrons of Township Art Gallery who have generously sent us money and some business tools. The money has heled to feed uas and the tools are giving us help and knowledge to carry on.  I myself (Alima) long for the day when I can watch and paint the best scenes of Kyelitsha again. 

Our team


Owner & Artist


Sales Assistant


Sales Assistant