Thursday, February 7, 2019

The spectacular Zeits museum

Stanley - Thursday

It's amazing what you can miss in your own backyard!

Yesterday I visited the spectacular Zeits museum of contemporary African art (Zeits MOCAA) in the Cape Town waterfront. I had heard nothing but rave reviews of the building, and the usual varying reviews of whatever the current exhibition happened to be.

I lucked out. Not only did the physical museum blow me away, but the exhibits were also extremely powerful.

First the building. To me it is itself a work of art - a remarkable sculpture carved from a set of grain silos. On the top of which sits a hotel. The Silo Hotel. The overall concept is brilliant, matched by superb execution. I don't have the words to adequately describe it.

On the top of the silos, there is a deck with each silo capped with a glass top. Looking down, you can see all the way down to ground level. Looking out, in one direction is Table Mountain, in the other Cape Town harbour.

My visiting English friends and I couldn't work out how the silos were cut because they were built with reinforced concrete sometimes thirty, sometimes sixty centimetres thick. Eventually, we saw the circular impression of a blade that had to be at least a metre in diameter. I can't image the noise and the dust. Then most cuts were polished.

The result is breath-taking.

You don't get a sense of the size from this photo.

Now you do.

Looking down from the staircase

Each lift fits neatly into a silo

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Looking up

Mette in awe

Of course, the staircase fits nicely into a silo too.

The shapes and lighting

You can barely see the people at the bottom.

The art:

The mission of the Zeitz museum is to research, preserve, and exhibit twenty-first art from Africa and its Diaspora. As you can imagine, a lot of it is born of the aftermath of the colonial era, as well as of the brutal, dictatorial governments of some of the African countries. Needless to say, Mugabe of Zimbabwe featured strongly.

For me, most of what I saw resonated in terms of what I perceived as the message of each piece, but there were very few I would hang on my wall.

One of the artists from Zimbabwe had a memorable quote, which sums up the motivation of a lot of the works.

Here are two of his pieces:

The last supper with Mugabe's disciples
And this wonderful painting of everyone singing from the same song sheet.

And finally a very small selection of pieces that make sense without the African context.

A freedom fighter's armoured vehicle. Note the mounted automatic weapon and (difficult to see) a rocket launcher and mortar.

People are expected to listen to the leader.

A truly memorable afternoon capped off with a light meal and glass of bubbly at the rooftop bistro.


  1. Stan, Lucky me!! I was there TODAY!! And it is as you say here--ASTONISHING. The works of are are worth a visit. The building worth a trip here just to see it.

  2. What an extraordinary space. I've never seen anything like it. Mette looks great too! :)