Nestled in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, the “Hennessy Rooftop Court” blends basketball and urban art into a vibrant fusion. At 73 Juta Street, Seth Pimentel’s artwork transforms the court into a captivating canvas inspired by the African sunset. Beyond sports, the court is set to host other activities fostering community engagement.
The court symbolizes Hennessy’s commitment to urban culture, attracting visitors and uniting communities. In an uncertain world, the court stands as a symbol of unity, reminding us of the power of sports, art, and community. The Hennessy Rooftop Court isn’t just a sports arena; it’s a living canvas where art, culture, and sports converge, inspiring all who experience its vibrancy.
We had a chat with Seth Pimentel, the creative mind behind the captivating artwork, and Stefanos Kondylis, Market Manager of Southern Africa at Moët Hennessy, to uncover the captivating journey behind the creation of the Hennessy Rooftop Basketball Court.
Seth Pimentel (African Ginger) – Illustrator, Painter And Experimental Visual Artist
Congratulations on fulfilling your dream of working with Hennessy – so well deserved! For those who may not be familiar, could you please share the story behind this dream, when it started and what was it about Hennessy that made you feel aligned to it?
[SETH PIMENTEL]: So, a very long time ago, a friend and I were skating through Braam when we saw Obey Giant (Shepard Fairey) painting a Nelson Mandela mural for Hennessy. I’m a huge fan of Obey Giant and I was thrilled that I got to meet him that day. We spoke for a bit and showed him my work, and he signed my sketch book! I was so gassed, I even told my friend that one day I’m going to work with Hennessy. And years later here we are, doing my second collab with the brand. It’s feels so surreal for me to even say that I’m a friend of Hennessy. Hennessy is a brand that just so real, they’re here for the culture, and they genuinely support musicians and artists like me. Working with a brand as authentic as Hennessy is a dream come true.
Take us through your creative process for the court design. Did you have a specific brief to work from, or did you enjoy full creative autonomy? Were there any notable challenges or highlights during this project?
[SETH PIMENTEL]: My brief was to create a piece of art that combined Hennessy with the culture of Braam. I was the leading artist for this project and had the pleasure of having overall direction of the look and feel. My inspiration came from the African sunset that cuts through the Johannesburg skyline – it’s a moment in time that fills me with the fondest memories of Braam. So the colour palette reflected that. For me, it was all about quantifying the beauty of Braam culture with Hennessy right beside it. It was painting the picture of a clear association between the Hennessy experience and the urban culture of Braam.
You mentioned your history with Braamfontein. Could you elaborate on that and explain how this moment holds special significance for you?
[SETH PIMENTEL]: I grew up in Braam it was home for me, 10 years ago I was in matric. I used to hang around there and skateboard with my friends. So, this is pretty much a full circle moment for me because 10 years later I get to create the first 3v3 basketball court in Braam, where artists I used to look up to like Shepard Fairy and Faith 47 have their artwork showcased for the world to see. This means a lot to me, especially because I’m collaborating with a brand such as Hennessy to bring a memorable structure to life.
How crucial do you believe it is for brands like Hennessy to provide opportunities like this for creatives in the cultures they aim to immerse themselves in?
[SETH PIMENTEL]: It’s so important because they help give us a spotlight to do what we love on a bigger scale. These brands give us a platform to truly create something from the heart. For me personally, I grew up in Johannesburg, this is my home, the streets of Braam were my playground growing up. I have so much memories and feelings attached to Braam, and Hennessy provided me with an outlet to express them in the biggest way possible. Brands like Hennessy who support the creatives are giving us a lifeline to do what we live for.
For aspiring artists who dream of achieving their goals as you have, what advice would you offer them?
[SETH PIMENTEL]: Don’t stop hustling! You were born with a talent, you were born to see the world through different colours. It may take years, it may take months or even weeks, but never stop the hustle. Never stop creating, never stop growing your skills. Because one day, you never know where you’ll end up.
Stefanos Kondylis – Market Manager of Southern Africa at Moët Hennessy
Hennessy has been a part of the music and sports culture for years. Why does this brand associate itself with genres like hip-hop and a sport like basketball?
[STEFANOS KONDYLIS]: Despite being the world’s leading cognac house, Hennessy’s legacy and heritage goes beyond the spirits industry. In the late 90s, when hip-hop started gaining a lot of traction, musicians started incorporating Hennessy in their songs as a reference to enjoying the finer things in life and sharing a good time over a bottle of cognac. Hip-hop and basketball are two of the most influential and culturally significant realms, and are often associated with success, achievement, and celebration. Hennessy as brand has embodied these very same values for many years, so associating ourselves in these spaces was just a natural progression. Hip-hop is known for its storytelling through lyrics, and basketball’s off-court culture is all about music, art, fashion that tell the story of creative expression, and Hennessy is seen as a symbol of these creatives’ journey and ultimate success. So, today, our goal is to celebrate and boost the spaces that celebrate Hennessy.
How important or significant is it to align with a culture rather than simply latching onto what’s currently trending in brand marketing?
[STEFANOS KONDYLIS]: It’s extremely important. We currently live in an age where people are much more perceptive and can easily tell when a brand is being authentic. Hennessy fully immerses itself in the cultural spaces it plays in, because it’s not just a marketing tactic to get us further ahead than other brands. We’ve developed deep connections, we’ve understood what makes the culture so unique. And because of this, people know our intentions are pure and authentic.
Congratulations on the launch of the unique Rooftop Basketball Court. Could you take us through (1) why you decided to bring this to an inner city, (2) why you chose Thirteen as a venue to place the court in, and (3) how do you envision this innovation becoming a part of Braamfontein’s overall culture?
[STEFANOS KONDYLIS]: Of course. When we came up with the idea of a rooftop court, we know this was going to be a first-of-its-kind. There were many spots we could have picked, but we were looking for a space that celebrated urban culture, that served as a safe space for creative expression. Braamfontein is Gauteng’s cultural hub, so of course there was no better location. Choosing a space in Braam was tough. This is a place where every corner is filled with artists, musicians, fashionistas, so we wanted a space that acted as a hub for inspiration. We found that in Thirteen (PlayBraam), situated in the heart of Braam, overlooking the Johannesburg skyline. Braam is a space where urban culture thrives, where creativity is encouraged and celebrated. We’ve created a space where it’s not just for basketball games, this is a space for the community to come together and show off their talents, to host intimate gatherings where creative expression flows. This space is our stepping stone to revitalising the culture in our own unique way, and it’s made specifically for the community.
From your speech at the launch, it seems your working relationship with Seth began quite some time ago (9 years ago). What is it about Seth and his work that convinced you he was the right person to take on the task of designing this unique basketball court?
[STEFANOS KONDYLIS]: Seth is a visionary artist, he’s an experimental soul that focuses on pushing the boundaries by merging traditional art techniques with digital work. Seth is someone who understands our connection to the off-court culture, and the importance of it. When you look at previous collaborations between us, you can see that Seth has 100% captured the vision and the story we were aiming to tell through our courts. And this collaboration has been no different. He found a way to merge Johannesburg’s culture with the spirit of the culture so perfectly, which I believe is not an easy feat to achieve.
How important is it to keep these kinds of relationships with brand friends over the long term?
[STEFANOS KONDYLIS]: It’s very important, because it’s not very often you find a talented individual who understands your brand and the values it lives by. Having brand friends, like Seth for example, for years not only shows commitment and dedication from both sides, but it also shows loyalty and understanding. These values are very hard to come by, but when you’ve cultivated these relationships over years – it sets the foundation for a partnership that will go and grow further.
For other talents who aspire to collaborate with major brands like Hennessy, what advice would you offer them?
[STEFANOS KONDYLIS]: Be yourself. Stay true to yourself and your personal brand, and you’ll watch how the collaboration offers will pour in. You like a specific brand for a reason – whether it’s what they stand for, what their values are, or what their mission is. Please, don’t change who are or what you believe in because you think it will help you land a bigger brand collab. Be authentically you, your audience will grow, and you’ll get noticed in no time.