The striking beauty of Cape Town’s brutalist ‘Museum of Contemporary Art Africa’
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, also known as Zeitz MOCAA, is a contemporary art museum located at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa.
The building, designed by English architect Thomas Heatherwick, is the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world and has been hailed as Africa’s answer to the Tate Modern. A public not-for-profit entity, the building was commissioned through a public/private partnership between the V&A Waterfront and German businessman, Jochen Zeitz.
On the banks of Table Bay and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the quite striking beauty of the museum building was constructed from the conversion of the historic Grain Silo, originally built in 1921 and decommissioned in 2001. Meticulously excavating large open spaces from the 42 densely packed concrete cylinders, architects attempted to conserve and celebrate the original structure’s industrial heritage.
Mark Coetzee, Zeitz-Mocaa’s executive director and chief curator, previously insisted that the vision of the museum is to provide a “platform for Africans to tell their own story and participate in the telling of that story.”
Delving deeper yet, Coetzee explained that the location of the building had been strategically planned out so that it is “geographically situated in Cape Town but has a dialogue with all 54 African states.”
“I think what is going to define all of this, in the end, is what is represented in the museum,” he added before explaining that past South Africans had been “excluded not only from visiting [museums] but also from being represented, or the way they were represented was problematic. It is going to win if the audience see themselves represented by their own artists.”
Here, in a work of brutalist art itself, is the building: