Tripping on the Zeitz fantastic! Artists give new museum rave reviews

15 September 2017 - 14:29 By Claire Keeton
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is a soaring space created out of silos by architect Thomas Heatherwick and local architects
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is a soaring space created out of silos by architect Thomas Heatherwick and local architects
Image: RUVAN BOSHOFF

Nicholas Hlobo’s crucifix-shaped Afro dragon‚ hanging in the atrium of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa‚ fits the cathedral-like space.

This award-winning piece‚ with a buck skull and bloody ribbons trailing from its wings is‚ like many of the artworks in the new museum‚ provocative and breathtaking.

Zeitz MOCCA opens to the public on Friday September 22‚ with exhibitions from 40 artists set to dazzle visitors to the historic renovated grain silo at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Curator-at-large of photography Azu Nwagbogu hopes this will be the seed for a new dawn in contemporary African art.

Iimpundulu zonke ziyandilandela, 2011.
Iimpundulu zonke ziyandilandela, 2011.
Image: Nicolas Hlobo

“This is a watershed moment for art and its work on the continent‚” he said.

Zeitz MOCCA artists turned up in numbers for the press preview of the museum on Friday‚ glowing with excitement and talking about how much the space means to them.

Artist Athi-Patra Ruga‚ 33‚ said that when the chief curator Mark Coetzee first spoke to him about the museum he thought it was a preposterous‚ great idea — yet now it was real.

“I have a canon. I’m in a museum. For me it’s going to be such a beautiful thing to have my nieces and nephew see their likeness and stories that relate to them being told in their country‚” he said

Curator-at-large for the Centre for Performative Practice‚ Roselee Goldberg‚ said Africa was “witnessing a revolution today. This is a real sensation. All the major museums are sending people here and this will continue.”

Their exhilaration was shared by the architect‚ Thomas Heatherwick‚ who rhapsodised about the soaring concrete silo which has been transformed by his vision in collaboration with local architects.

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is a soaring space created out of silos by architect Thomas Heatherwick and local architects.
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is a soaring space created out of silos by architect Thomas Heatherwick and local architects.
Image: RUVAN BOSHOFF

“The question was what to do with this gigantic building made from tubes and how to make a compelling inner space which was unique and soulful. We felt strongly it needed a heart.”

He said they traced the shape of a kernel of grain and multiplied it to the scale of a 10-storey building‚ and that’s what they carved out. “Instead of the concrete being hard and brutal it was almost soft.”

The V&A Waterfront funded the R500-million project‚ which is expected to become one of Africa’s biggest tourist attractions.

V&A CEO David Green said 72% of visitors to the waterfront were South African and the museum aimed to be as accessible as possible.

Heatherwick said that cities globally wanted museums of contemporary art. “This is like the missing piece in the jigsaw. South Africa has incredible artists and private galleries but it had no major public institution‚” he said.

German businessman Jochen Zeitz is providing his vast founding collection to the museum.

To view the artists