Zeitz MOCAA, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, set tongues wagging when it launched on the Heritage Day long weekend, not least because entry over those days was free.
Visitors from all walks of life, including art ignoramus, Fiona McIntosh, came to see what all the fuss was about. She lists five good reasons why, even if you have little interest in modern art, you should check it out.
To marvel at the architecture
Housed in a renovated a grain silo that dates back to the 1920s, MOCAA must have one of the most intriguing premises of any modern art gallery in the world. The new, glitzy facelift of the Waterfront landmark is dazzling. With its vast oval bins – modelled on a corn kernel – the design of the huge atrium pays homage to the Silo’s roots, but once inside you feel as if you’re in a cathedral.
Until the beginning of the 21st century, the 57m-high building was central to the collection, sorting, storing and exportation of wheat, maize, soya and other grains that were transported to the docks by rail from the hinterland. The maze of tunnels in the basement through which grain was transported on conveyor belts and the old chutes and funnels in the museum and in The Silo, the ultra-chic hotel that now occupies the grain elevator section of the complex, are fascinating relics of the Silo’s past life.
To see the dragon
Love it or hate it, the fiery dragon that greets you as you enter the Atrium makes an indelible impression. Created by Nicholas Hlobo, its title impundulu zonke ziyandilinda, (All the Lightning Birds Are After Me) apparently refers to a mythological Lightning Bird or dragon. Whatever its symbolism, it’s certainly a head-turner. I wouldn’t fancy being chased by this monster.
To wonder at the art…
The largest collection of contemporary African art in the world, MOCAA showcases the work of both local artists and Africans separated from their homeland. Some of it is really funky; some of it is very dark: I’ll admit to asking the helpful curators for insight in certain galleries. Taking an audio tour is recommended if, like me, you’re an occasional gallery-goer or not au fait with the African art scene.
To check out the rooftop sculpture garden.
Climb the stairs to the rooftop to admire the sculpture garden. While you are there, get down onto your knees and peer down through the glass for a different perspective on the dragon and the spiralling staircase to the floors below.
To enjoy the Silo District
Roll around on the fun spinning chairs (also designed by museum designer, Thomas Heatherwick) checking out the Silo District or catch some rays, read a book or just chill outside the building on the ‘tram-like seating’ outside the museum space.