Cape Town’s legendary Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a perpetual explosion of vibrancy and verve, a place that never sleeps, an insatiable, compulsive pull for international tourists. It’s proudly Africa’s iconic beacon of confidence to the world. Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is a frenzy of collective contemporary culture and commerce – the finest diamond jewellers literally overlook the hustle and bustle of a busy working shipyard! The V&A Waterfront is the most visited attraction in Africa, drawing over 25 million visitors every year and the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) is the magnet, the prized jewel in the crown of the über-trendy Silo District that’s one of the newer additions to Cape Town’s ever-expanding V&A Waterfront. The latter boasts a bevy of inspired spaces, none more outrageously memorable than the Zeitz MOCAA, a one-of-a-kind temple to the arts, the grandest of sculptures, holding court in its own sea-front piazza.
No crusty and dusty old portraits of the dead here! This gallery is all about mature contemporary art of a new Africa, the coming of age and the challenging of the values of the old world. Let’s have a taste of this festive feast of the arts and fashion and give the old world a dressing down!
Literally carved out of the dock’s old grey industrial concrete grain silos, this gallery is like no other. The massive concrete base conceals another world. The grand gallery, reminiscent of a dynamited castle, is a great hollowed-out shell of cut curvaceous concrete, supreme sculpture in its’ own right. Stairs and lifts sweep and soar, carrying you to and through a new world of art. The interior is restless and vibrant, the new gallery spaces run amok, looping through, around and above the bursting industrial silos. Atop, a fragile hotel of 6 floors explodes, its bulbous glass lantern windows spilling into the Cape Town skies. Heavy concrete morphs into lacework steel and light. What a contrast, how dynamic, how much fun in one ingenious design! Thomas Heatherwick, the architect, tamed the old industrial mass and punctuated it with scraps of antique machinery, like old brass buttons on a trench coat, while above a glowing headdress cuts the skyline.
Take a walk through the incredible interior of the Zeitz MOCAA:
Watch a video on the construction of the Zeitz MOCAA:
Watch a short video on the Fashion Institute at Zeitz MOCAA:
This is more than just a building, it is a world event that must be attended, the vision of the German philanthropist and environmentalist, Jochen Zeitz who had rebuilt motorcycle legend Harley Davidson and sports equipment manufacturer Puma. This resurrection of the old silos is for the exclusive display of African artists’ work: painting, photography, sculpture, fashion and ephemeral installations from the sublime to the ridiculous, massive to miniature, liquid to gas. Nicholas Hlobo’s fantastic aerial creations using fabric and soft materials fill the grand gallery. A South African from Cape Town, he chooses materials such as rubber inner tubes, ribbon, gauze, lace and found objects, and combines them using techniques such as stitching and weaving to create aerial monsters in an exploration of gender, race and ethnicity.
Zeitz MOCAA Gallery has been integral to the South African Fashion Industry from its conception. As early as 2015, the South African Costume Institute was launched as part of the future museum and gallery which opened 2018. The mission of the Institute was to promote the study of costume and more specifically to promote an understanding of all the human behavioural similarities, differences, values and expressions in dress on the continent. The institute has been amassing a clothing collection archive for display and study with new fashion works from African designers being integral tools for the museum’s broader outreach to community and country. Art and fashion are inextricably connected at Zeitz MOCAA, a case in point being Untitled, a bloody dress by Kudzanai Chiurai, a Zimbabwean artist exploring the nature of violence, in collaboration with Marianne Fassler, the queen of South African couture.
The perfect venue for international fashion events – magnificent, mysterious and modern, the gallery hosted the 21 Years of South African Fashion Exhibition in 2018/19. The senior curator, Erica de Greef recalls, “much like art, fashion has the capacity to reflect the broader political, cultural, technological and creative transformation in post-apartheid South Africa”.
Stacked above the gallery and voted the Best City Hotel in Africa in 2020, is the exceptional Silo Hotel, an ultra-luxury, absolute artsy and never-can-be-repeated stay experience. Exceptional and original art decorates every elevator, every corridor, every bedroom and bathroom in the hotel. The Sculpture Garden, with a floor glazed over concrete silo tubes, separates the gallery below from the hotel above. Where gallery stops and hotel starts is almost impossible to tell. Like a giant crystal glass lantern, the hotel beams across the city, all is in view from its huge bulging bedroom window walls. At the summit of this dynamic mass is the open entertainment deck with its glass-sided rooftop pool and uninterrupted 360 degree panoramic views across the city, Table Mountain, The Waterfront, The Bo-Kaap and the golden beaches of Bloubergstrand.
Success breeds success, the gallery is the heart of a new vibrant public space, its characterful concrete canvas of walls offering the perfect backdrop to outdoor events and festivities. A grand piazza, lined with dynamic contemporary buildings has flourished around offering exclusive restaurants and cocktail bars perfectly poised to enjoy an endless procession of concerts and productions. The performing arts fill the evenings, glamourous galas, ostentatious openings, perfect promotions adorned with high fashion, luxury car and gorgeous girls – a fashion fashionista’s Mecca. The warm Cape Town evenings brings Argentinian Tango, Brazilian folk dance, American Blues, Cape Town Jazz and Acapella from Soweto. All paying homage to the Zeitz MOCAA, the buildings of a European square looking to their cathedral, the little streets between are filled with art galleries, jewellers and couture fashion stores. Typical of the supporting cast is the nearby Southern Guild, a collaboration of Cape Town’s most avant-garde sculptors and makers, while in the same street is haute couture fashion of Kat Van Duinen and the fantastic Si Cantina Sociale and Oui Bar & KITCH Restaurants. The Yard, a bustling bar and rocking restaurant carries the show by day and night.
The Zeitz MOCAA Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is a pulsating heart driving not only Cape Town’s splendid Waterfront, but also the city and country. This is the continent’s flagship cultural centre joyously celebrating everything artistic in Africa, inside and out, day and night. A bucket list essential!
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