4th December 2017

Zeitz MOCAA

The Museum of Contemporary African Art, otherwise known as Zeitz MOCAA, has finally arrived in Cape Town. It is, by far, the most exciting part of the otherwise underwhelming V&A Waterfront with its shopping malls, average restaurants, lacklustre hotels and waterways reminiscent of London's Docklands.

It is by far the most exciting part of the V & A Waterfront…

Described as Africa’s answer to the Tate Modern, the museum is even more spectacular than anticipated, putting the country’s (rather struggling) art scene back on the map.

Opened in September 2017, German entrepreneur and former chief executive of Puma, Jochen Zeitz is the man behind the project. Zeitz began collecting art in the 1990s – and then fell in love with Africa. He took his passion seriously: building a 50,000-acre ranch in Kenya, acquiring the 1929 Gipsy Moth biplane used in Out of Africa – and, in 2008, started to amass world-class 21st-century African art. Fast forward nearly 10 years, Zeitz’s private collection now forms the basis of the museum, realising his ambition to give African artists a voice. He explains: ‘I saw enormous creativity in Africa and I didn’t understand why there was no such institution here… I see myself as a global citizen and someone with a lot of compassion for Africa and I felt something had to be done.’

a triumph of ingenuity and innovation…

So, Zeitz along with South African curator Mark Coetzee set to work. Award-winning design maverick Thomas Heatherwick jumped on board to work his magic on the interiors. The result is a triumph of ingenuity and innovation, transforming the gargantuan 1920s grain silo into a thrilling contemporary structure with a 10-storey-high atrium carved out of cellular concrete tubes. The shiny black steel spiral staircase is just one of the extraordinary design elements – and provides easy access to the museum’s 100-plus galleries.

the shiny black steel spiral staircase is just one of the extraordinary design elements…

The exhibits are blissfully easy to navigate. Proving both style and substance, the quality of the work is exquisite, promoting the immense diversity of African art. Arguably, our favourite artist on show was Nandipha Mntambo who, inspired by the female body form, creates incredible haute couture-like sculptures, made from cowhide. Another highlight was controversial South African ‘visual activist’ Zanele Muholi’s work whose challenging photographs and videos focused on the issues of homophobia, hate crimes and rape. Conceptual artist Kendell Geers’ installations were equally thought-provoking. Born into an Afrikaans family during the Apartheid, Geers uses everyday objects to craft pieces designed to challenge authority. Nicholas Hlobo is also one for random items, creating richly-layered sculptural work, exploring the subjects of gender, race and ethnicity – the dragon sculpture, originally created for the Venice Bienalle 2011, now hangs mid-air in the gallery’s brutalist atrium. Then there’s the gift shop – one of the finest of any public museum – and the perfect finale to this artistic adventure.

Please contact the team at Nota Bene Global to plan a trip to Cape Town in style.