Once derelict concrete grain silos in Cape Town’s docklands reinvented as spectacular art, fashion and design venue
“A HUNGRY HEN SEES HERSELF IN A CORN SILO.” Unknown
Creating beauty and fashion on location can be either a dream or a nightmare. I have used my makeup brushes in public toilets, abandoned buildings, harsh terrain as well as five star hotels. Believe me, its not all glamorous but the photo shoot for the recent cover of Elle magazine, October issue and the inside fashion editorial was shot inside what can only be described as a surrealistic vision- the breathtaking Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa). I felt as if I was working inside the body of a sculpture where every surface, space and bend of light ignites the imagination, a microcosm reflecting and focussing the natural energy of South Africa.
Although the interior was still under construction the Elle team were inspired. MOCAA is the pinnacle of a transformation, a resurrection from a grain silo that played a historic role in international trade to a contemporary world stage for African art.
The Silo is across the bridge from Victoria Wharf in Cape Town’s V & A Waterfront, just beyond the landmark Clock Tower. Its tall concrete cylinders command the centre of the design district. A luxurious boutique hotel occupies the top six floors of the Silo. With an open roof top pool and bar with a 360% view of the Waterfront and the mountains, this is a must visit for sundowners. The magnificent glass windows both illuminate the district and reflect it out to sea: a modern beacon of light beaming out the history from this once spent and forgotten site.
It has been said that “A grain of corn has more value to mankind than all of the diamond mines in Africa”, and fitting that the designer of the museum, Thomas Heatherwick, could take a long hard look at the value of a single grain of corn and realise the strong symbolism as a source and sustainer of life. After examining the complex structure he captured its intricate design through the process of digital scanning and magnification. This was the basis for the painstaking implementation of the silo’s interior shell. Original parts of machinery, tubes and plaques cocoon the very soul of the silos past and create a shrine to modern art. Be amazed at the engineering of such a task before you visit the 100 individual galleries that span over six floors featuring the work of Africa’s finest artists. Heatherwick’s passion for creating public spaces is governed by letting the human experience chart their evolution and this approach is evident in his previous projects that include The Coal Drops yard in London, UK Pavilion in Shanghai, Pier 55 in New York and the incredible Al Fayah Park in Abu Dhabi.
The Elle fashion editor, Dimeji Alara, chose this season’s fall/winter 2017 to 2018 Gucci collection with its bursts of colour and references to art. The textured and patterned garments were framed and photographed by Jacques Weyers within this labyrinth of shapes and the Daliesque atrium.
The African art currently exhibited has already sparked some controversy and comment, as good art tends to. I overheard someone describe the exhibitions as “thin”; perhaps, I think, this is to allow space for growth.
The museum asks us to “rethink Art, rethink Africa”. “The mark of any advanced civilization is the collective achievements of that civilization. If we understand each other better, which is what art does, we create a world we all want to live in …why here? why now? And why at the tip of Africa? It’s a symbol, it is an icon of the confidence we feel about being Africans, the confidence we feel about our place in the world.
Numerous questions have been posed around our opening exhibition , the most evocative of these being: How will I be represented in the Museum?
See for yourself. All things Being Equal… “
Executive Director and Chief Curator Mark Coetzee.
My most compelling viewing was the digital video installation, “More sweetly play the dance”, by South African artist William Kentridge. I had to keep going back to see it again, It resonated with me as the sound, light, image and movement tells a story without words, a history without teaching, a journey with struggle, celebration and vibrancy that is undoubtedly Africa in all its glory.
Operating hours Wednesday to Monday 10 am to 6pm
Closed on Tuesday
Daily admission R180 per adult