Thabo Modise: The Confluence Between Tourism and Art

By Molly Jackson

In a move to influence South Africa’s economic and social scenes by bringing together art and tourism, entrepreneur and accredited tour operator ‘Thabo the Tourist’ has launched a unique art gallery tour experience in Johannesburg. Thabo Jacob Modise aims to attract all types of visitors to his guided tours in an effort to break away from traditional art gallery audiences limited to adults and art aficionados.

“I am all about connecting people to art,” Modise explains. “First and foremost, I strongly believe that art is tourism, and vice versa.

“My humble intention is to bridge the gap between the art and tourism space, build a whole new society of art collectors and tourists, and nurture a relationship between curators and galleries.”

Modise’s experience with tourism started during the 2010 Soccer World Cup when he began selling his own artwork to tourists from a stall in Soweto’s Vilakazi Street. He then decided to grow his gazebo stall into a formal shop and in 2017 he was selected as one of the top ten tourism products in Gauteng by South African Tourism.

Modise went on to participate in tourism trade shows such as Africa’s Travel Indaba and South Africa’s Travel Expo and won the Creative Industry award under the Township Entrepreneur Awards flagship in 2018.

After having to close his store in Vilakazi Street in late 2019, Modise needed to come up with a new product relevant to both domestic and international markets. He decided to begin his ‘Hop on Joburg Art Gallery with ‘Thabo the Tourist’ tours, as he realized that many tourists were opting to visit museums rather than art gallery spaces, and were thus missing out on experiencing many local works of fine art.

Modise strives to offer his tours as therapeutic experiences, through which participants “hop on empty, and hop off fulfilled.”

Around three hours long and welcoming participants of all ages and backgrounds, the tours are bookable for R880 (€48) on Airbnb and IamJoburg online booking platforms.