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  • Writer's pictureLucelle Pillay

What's On at Zeitz Mocaa?


Figure 1. Zeitz Mocaa. Entrance. Panoramic View. Photo courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023


While on holiday in the ‘Mother City’, I couldn’t resist visiting the sculpturally dominant, Zeitz Mocaa Museum of Contemporary Fine Art. It’s brutalist silos towering majestically against Table Mountain, lures the local art fanatic or sophisticated tourist towards its columned interiors. With the promise of the cultural objects, introspective artistic visions and audio visual narrative-experiences, I entered the Zeitz Mocaa for my first visit.


A flat rate of R230 per adult is charged upon entry, which may seem a bit steep for the average local group visiting Cape Town. I was abandoned by most in my party at the museum doors, as they opted to go shopping at the V&A, ride the ‘Hop-on-Hop-off’ or take a boat cruise. I found this to be quite tragic, as all the museums I visited in Europe, including the Louvre, offered their local patrons a reduced rate, whilst charging tourists more. It’s a pity Zeitz haven’t opted to conform to this norm, as it may improve accessibility and the exposure of contemporary art to it’s local people.

I was informed by ticket sales at reception that I would need to scan the QR codes displayed at all levels to access the audio tours of the various exhibits. I asked for earphones, as this is provided by all major museums abroad, but was informed that I should just listen softly on my phone.


What doesn’t disappoint however, is the sheer scale of its architecture, standing within the carved out diaspon-like columns, was a spiritual experience. Like an ant within giant organ pipes, I noticed my audial experience reverbed unusually within the tubular cavern. Even the sounds of young girls giggling while taking selfies on the lower level, morphed and vibrated within this echo chamber that presents like an immersive art installation itself. The work of Joël Adrianomearisoa, entitled ‘The Five Continents of all our Desires’ adorns the atrium [See Figure 2 & 3].

‘The work celebrates relations and connections and is constructed black silk paper. Six large-scale sculptures form a suspended archipelago in a poetic reference to land masses and geographies of the imagination. For Andrianomearisoa, the work speaks to both migration and language, and the ongoing search for zones of engagement and desire. He constructs a view of the world that is fragile, ambiguous, open-ended and about new possibilities for human contact.’ (https://zeitzmocaa.museum/exhibition/exhibitions/joel-andrianomearisoa-the-five-continents-of-all-our-desires/) (Accessed 19/01/2023)

‘The work is conceived in dialogue with the concrete interior of the museum, and what remains of the original silos of the building; it is both in play and in visual tension with its surroundings. Whilst appearing as large black masses, the thin and soft materiality of the work allows for subtle atmospheric responses to become visible, such as paper rustling due to airflows caused by human movement.’ (https://zeitzmocaa.museum/exhibition/exhibitions/joel-andrianomearisoa-the-five-continents-of-all-our-desires/) (Accessed 19/01/2023)


Figure 2. Zeitz Mocaa atrium. Photographs courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023



Figure 3. Zeitz Mocaa atrium. Panoramic view. Photograph courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023


I made my way up to the 6th floor and decided to view the various exhibits housed on each level on my way down to the lower atrium. A beautifully sleek capsular glass elevator, transports patrons to the various levels like a silent bullet. The 6th Floor houses the rooftop restaurant and the ‘Sculpture Park’ (See Figure 4). Unfortunately, devoid of sculptures since 2020, due to wind speeds, the space lies barren, which was quite disappointing, but the spectacular views of the city offered some recompense.


Figure 4. Zeitz Mocaa. Rooftop - Level 6. Panoramic view. Photograph courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023


Current Exhibitions


I viewed three amazing and diverse exhibitions entitled, Two Together, When they see Us & Indigo Waves. Detailed catalogues were readily available at the entry points of each exhibit, as well as QR codes for the audio tour (See Figure 5).


Figure 5 . Current exhibition catalogues at Zeitz Mocaa. Photograph courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023


Two Together (See Figure 6)

‘Two Together inaugurates a dedicated space for the Zeitz MOCAA Collection and is built around major themes explored by artists from Africa and its diaspora who are represented in the collection. Each of the galleries that comprise this show contains a pair: either two objects or multiple works by two artists or two major themes – either in dialogue, as counterpoints or in complementary ways. As couples for, in comedic duos or in romance, the exhibition embraces a rigorous engagement between objects and ideas.’ (https://zeitzmocaa.museum/exhibition/exhibitions/two-together/) (Accessed 19/01/2023).

‘When two come together, there can be a conversation around absence and nostalgia expressed by cutting or tearing images from archives or ripping apart strips of cloth, both done to express loss. Referencing the history of slave trades across the Atlantic or the Indian Oceans, two can use portraiture as a medium to reimagine routes journeyed by ancestors. Two together can amplify resistance. Using satire and sophistication, two can resist the imposed taxonomy of time, place, gender and history.’ (https://zeitzmocaa.museum/exhibition/exhibitions/two-together/) (Accessed 19/01/2023).


Figure 6 . Work from ‘Two Together’. Panoramic view. Photograph courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023


When they see Us: A Century of Black Figuration Painting

'An exhibition, publication and discursive programming that explores Black self-representation and celebrates global Black subjectivities and Black consciousness from pan-African and pan-diasporic perspectives. It boldly brings together artworks from the last 100 years, by Black artists working globally, into dialogue with leading Black thinkers, writers and poets who are active today.' (https://zeitzmocaa.museum/exhibition/exhibitions/when-we-see-us-a-century-of-black-figuration-in-painting/) (Accessed 19/02/2023).


'With a focus on painting, the exhibition celebrates how artists from Africa and its diaspora have imagined, positioned, memorialised and asserted African and African-descent experiences. It contributes to critical discourse on African and Black liberation, intellectual and philosophical movements. The title of the exhibition is inspired by Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, the 2019 miniseries. Flipping ‘they’ to ‘we’ allows for a dialectical shift that centres the conversation in a differential perspective of self-writing as theorised by Cameroonian political scientist Professor Achille Mbembe.' (https://zeitzmocaa.museum/exhibition/exhibitions/when-we-see-us-a-century-of-black-figuration-in-painting/) (Accessed 19/02/2023).


Figure 7 . Work from ‘When they see us’. Panoramic view. Photograph courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023



Figure 8 . Work from ‘When they see us’. Panoramic view. Photograph courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023


Indigo Waves & other Stories: Re-navigating the Afrasian Sea & notions of Diaspora

(See Figure 9 & 10)

This exhibit held both personal and academic interest for me in particular, as I am originally from Durban and of Indian descent. Thereby a generational product of British colonialism, ancestrally linked to the Indian indentured labourers brought to South Africa from the mid 1800’s. My current area of visual research weaves the biographical data of every indentured labourer that passed through the port of Natal within a series of projected digital narratives.

The collective of artists of ‘Indigo Waves’ have used the symbols of the ocean, water and diaspora to speak of marginalised identities in extremely refreshing and nuanced ways.


‘Taking the stories and histories of the Indian Ocean as its departure point, the group exhibition Indigo Waves and Other Stories: Re-Navigating the Afrasian Sea and Notions of Diaspora brings together 13 contemporary artists, historians, filmmakers, musicians, writers and thinkers to investigate, unpack and shed light on some of the smaller and bigger historical, cultural and linguistic links between the continents of Africa and Asia. The exhibition approaches the Indian Ocean as a communal horizon from which to read Afrasian (that is, belonging to both Africa and Asia) histories of forced and unforced movement through currents of mercantile and colonial empire.’ (https://zeitzmocaa.museum/exhibition/exhibitions/indigo-waves-and-other-stories-re-navigating-the-afrasian-sea-and-notions-of-diaspora-2/) (Accessed 19/01/2023).


Figure 10 . Work from ‘Indigo Waves’. Panoramic view. Photograph courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023



Figure 10 . Work from ‘Indigo Waves’. Panoramic view. Photograph courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023


Zeitz Mocaa has taken me on a culturally inclusive journey of just few narratives from Africa, and I will be sure to return to see more. I encourage anyone interested in visual art or cultural studies to ‘Hop Off’ at its silos and enter the conversation started by our local and ‘glocal’ artists and curators.


Figure 11 . Zeitz Mocaa. Main Entrance. Panoramic view. Photograph courtesy of Lucelle Bernadette Pillay. 2023


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