Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art at the V&A Waterfront
by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
I watched the metamorphosis from coal sheds to gallery, grain silos to hotel. Behind the geodesic windows, with views across the harbour and up to Table Mountain is a very expensive hotel The Silo. On Wednesday mornings entry to Zeitz MOCAA is free if you have an African ID.
Sapphire sky, gold from Africa, and coral beads. The horror of what he sees thru the gap torn in his sail, kept me sleepless all night. The world scaled to human size.
The building intrigues me. To rework vast grain silos, remembering the history embedded in the concrete. Built in 1921-4, it was the tallest building in sub-Saharan Africa till 1974. Architect Heatherwick - “We got one of the [original] grains, digitally scanned it, enlarged that grain to ten stories high, and used that as the carving pattern.” Construction workers used double-blade handsaws to painstakingly carve the curvaceous inner sanctum. Across the heart flies a delicate dragon Lightning Bird by Nicholas Hlobo (South Africa).
I have always loved rock and stone. At the base of the silos the scalloped curves of exposed concrete have been polished smooth as satin. The aggregate glows like gems. Robben Island slate?? No - bits of Table Mountain!
My father once worked at Imperial Cold Storage in the harbour (as a railway engineer). Abandoned machinery and tunnels - against Table Mountain to remind me - this is not London. This vibrant contemporary city is my own Cape Town. Art students were sketching the building.
The Waves. Walls hung with squares of ... canvas, old sails in shades of cream and tan? But no - it is beads, made in Japan - deliberately with a chalky surface to absorb skin oils as they are strung together. Blood, sweat and tears show in the gentle understated colours. Their names listed in acknowledgement by the artist Liza Lou USA.
Gold script on this painting by Kudzani Chiurai (Zimbabwe) memorialises Lily. And her daughter Martha. A four year old housemaid. To be sold together. With a warning that they are disloyal. The dates when they ran away listed above. We live in a city where socalled Coloured people bear surnames April, September or August from their slave forebears.
Julien Sinzogan (Benin) Choc du Cultures - Bon Vent a Tous. Distracted by the vibrant golds of the sails, I suddenly realised what was looming over these dugout canoes. Slave ships towering up and blotting out the sun. Companion piece showed manacled and handcuffed slaves trudging to the slave ships.
Black sun in wood and Perspex by Daniella Mooney (South Africa) represents Yeku-meji, [from] the Yoruba system of geomancy known as iFa [and] signifies remembrance of the dead. Coral beads have a disconcerting unreal quality as they are collaged photos. The inked hair turns jewellery to landscape - Taiye Idahor (Nigeria). Gathering of hoes for Harvest by Michele Mathison (South Africa). I was admiring the way these snakes were built (Ophiophillia by Frances Goodman South Africa) Scales curved and shaped just so. I have gardener's paws, and didn't recognise ... acrylic nails! Caribbean peacock eyes on a mask by Cyrus Kabiru (Kenya). Knitting has devoured a few small children with Roger Ballen (USA).
The dust house filtered the air for workers and 'stopped the building from exploding'. Addio del Passato from Traviata. Artist Yinka Shonibare (Lagos and London) uses Indonesian Dutch exported 'African' batik for the costumes. The sound in that hollow tower was amazing. Video from the artist, sung by Nadine Benjamin.
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