Two years ago, the best-selling cognac brand Hennessy initiated a global partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA), aimed at growing the spirit of the game and its values through artistic collaborations in communities around the world. The In the Paint project has already created six basketball courts on the African continent, in partnership with leading artists.
The newly designed Camp Toyoyo Jericho basketball court in Nairobi, Kenya, is the latest African collaboration to be completed. Kenyan visual and graffiti artist Kevin Esendi (aka Bankslave) drew inspiration from the shield of the country’s flag, symbolising the people’s quest to defend and protect their heritage. Bankslave incorporated Hennessy’s brand mark, the Bras Armé (loosely translated as “the arm and axe”), blending urban culture and Cognac as other artists have done before him, subtly referring to the NBA collaboration with basketball in hand. Vibrant colours derived from the traditional East African Kanga garment, represent the game’s energy, Africa as a continent and the creativity of its people.
In Accra, Ghana, contemporary artist and muralist Nicholas Tettey Wayo (Nico Wayo) transformed the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission basketball court with different shapes and colours, signifying various cultures playing on one court in peace, love and unity – despite the competition. He used Adinkra symbols, which each have unique representations but together symbolise excellence.
Nigerian visual artist Osa Seven was tasked with revitalising the Park 23 basketball court on 23 Road, FESTAC town in Lagos, where he used to play as a child. His inspiration comes from the country’s diverse cultures celebrating heritage (the Benin Ivory mask is used as the official FESTAC logo), creativity, and innovation. The curved patterns and colours depict clouds heavy with rain before the break of dawn, emphasising Nigerians’ resilience and resonating with Hennessy’s DNA. “This artwork is made of bold, curved patterns and colours and the Benin Queen’s bronze head represents the point where yesterday and tomorrow meet – today,” says Osa Seven.
“For Hennessy, it’s always been about moving beyond the lines,” says Oluwole Awoleke, marketing manager for Hennessy in Nigeria. “Hennessy is more than a cognac and this project is a testament to how the brand enables the true spirit of community through the In the Paint initiative,”
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, local visual artist John Joseph Odul, took charge of the iconic Spiders Basketball court design, reflecting the craft techniques of East Africa. “For me, it was important to pay tribute to contemporary African art inspired by our Tanzanian community, the rare Tanzanite gemstone and the waters of our beautiful coastal country.”
For the Zoo Lake court in Johannesburg, South Africa, Hennessy first collaborated with Zimbabwean graphic artist Sindiso Nyoni, aka R!OT. His design reflects the varied indigenous craft techniques found within Southern Africa. With the sun at its centre, the warmth of the continent emanates alongside ripples mimicking the flow of the Charente River in Cognac, which was the initial maritime trading route guiding the expansion of Hennessy worldwide. “It’s a beautiful ode to Africa,” says Nyoni. “It was important to incorporate and pay tribute to contemporary African art inspired by Zimbabwe and South Africa,” he says.
In June this year, Hennessy collaborated with renowned local visual artist Seth Pimentel, also known as African Ginger, to breathe new life into the Ernest Oppenheimer Park basketball court, located at the centre of Johannesburg’s inner city.
Pimentel’s design reflects the CBD’s diversity and deep-rooted history, and his characteristic neo-expressionist style captures the energy and emotion that comes with playing the game, with the soft and vibrant line expressionism signifying that the “Game Never Stops” within the four corners of the court.
Pimentel explains: “This collaboration with Hennessy has allowed me to share untold stories through art. It showcases the spirit of our people and is a tribute to the past while serving as a beacon of hope for the future.”
Lungile Mpharu, Hennessy Brand Manager, says: “In the Paint’ celebrates Hennessy’s partnership with the NBA, allowing us to make meaningful contributions to those passionate about the game. That’s why we’re excited to continue this commitment in South Africa. It has an incredible way to give back and foster the urban culture that Hennessy is so proud to be part of.”