From Grain Silos to Art - Day 392
How to you get from Grain Silos to Art? Go to the Zeitz MOCAA, that's how.
We are staying right near the V & A Waterfront of Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest working harbour. It was about time we took a visit to this now trendy place. As we arrived, a large red corrugated roof greeted us with “Hamleys” on it. Tim’s Dad would occasionally take him, his brother and sister to the original Hamleys in London’s West End, it was strange to see it here.
Our first stop was at the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island so that we could book tickets to this famous place. The queue was extremely slow, so after a time of not moving, I went on their website and booked online for Friday. Doh! We thought we then had to queue elsewhere to pick up printed tickets. Eventually reaching the kiosk, we were told that the online ticket suffices. I think their marketing and service could be somewhat improved. It is one of the main attractions, and of course, included in the Lonely Planet’s top 500!
Our next stop was the Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) opened in September 2017. What a fascinating place. The building originally was an old deserted Grain Silo complex. It took quite a few years to decide what to do with the 42 x 33m high concrete tubes, (reminding me of Battersea Power station) and many ideas were submitted. Eventually, with the aid of the imagination of UK designer Thomas Heatherwick and his innovative team of architects plus the desire of entrepreneur Jöchen Zeitz to find a home for his world-class contemporary African art collection, the Zeitz MOCAA was created. And what a creation it is.
There is something about the architecture that reminds me of Gaudi’s Casa Batlló in Barcelona. The enormous concrete tubes have been cut at interesting angles so that the central atrium cleverly is modelled on a grain of corn and the silo roofs have been replaced by massive geometric convex windows like eyes of flies. The result is an incredible kaleidoscope of light beaming down to the core of the building, changing at different times of the day.
And the Art was pretty good as well! Four floors of art installations, videos on massive screens as well as paintings that cover various topics including politics, migration, perceptions of people and the environment.
I love Anthony Bumhira’s work. Through using blankets and crochet doilies representing familiar objects in a Zimbabwean home, he examines how the 4 million people who have emigrated out of the country in just 7 years obtain a sense of belonging.
An amusing work by Frances Goodman ridicules the absurd standards of beauty through creating a sculpture with tentacle-shaped arms all made from acrylic nails! As the curator asks “How far are you willing to alter your appearance to conform?”
Tim was fascinated by Mary Sibande's “In the midst of chaos, there is opportunity”. The soldiers look like typical green toy ones, and the figure on the horse looks like it has ripped out the heart from an animal. It wasn’t my cup of tea.
The artwork was certainly diverse; weird, wonderful, thought-provoking and humorous, all in this beautiful building converted from old concrete silos.
After our picnic lunch, we popped into the Chavonnes Battery which was the first significant defence built by the Dutch East India Company in 1714 – 1725. The ticket attendant gave us a brief history of the place and also offered us a tricorn hat to wear. Only one of us took up the offer. Guess who?
On the ground floor was an International Press Photo Exhibition for young photojournalists. It’s named after Andrei Stenin, a Russian photojournalist who was killed in 2014 covering the war in Ukraine; he was also posthumously awarded Russia's Order of Courage. Over 6,000 young people entered the exhibition from 77 countries with four categories: Top News, Sports, My planet and Portrait: A Hero of our time.
The Top News had some harrowing photos, especially of war-torn countries. When will we learn? There was a fabulous close-up shot of a large drop of sweat just about to drop off Rafael Nadal’s nose in the Sports category. My planet had a series of photos depicting the brave fire personnel who risked their lives in the recent wildfires in South Africa and the first prize in the series category for Portrait: A Hero of our time were photos of identical twins.
I confess, I much preferred looking at these photos than finding out about the Battery. Historical wars don’t really interest me, but the different sizes of cannon balls were fascinating.