Hailed as the “8th wonder of the world” at its opening, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa is the largest contemporary art museum on the continent. The building was originally a 1920’s grain silo, which was converted by English architect Thomas Heatherwick to create a honey-comb-like-space, where the cement columns look as though they were smoothly carved like “a hot wire through butter”. There are one hundred galleries spread over nine floors that feature almost exclusively African and South African artists, as the museum strives to act as a “platform for Africans to tell their own story”.
The entrance’s focal opening, BMW Atrium, features a giant mixed-media dragon by South African artist Nicholas Hlobo, titled All the Lightning Birds Are After Me, or – in Hlobo’s native Xhosa language: Iimpundulu Zonke Ziyandilandela. Originally created for the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, this seminal work combines rubber inner tubing, colorful ribbons, and an animal skull to create a seductive creature charged with meaning. His use of masculine materials strung together with feminine techniques is an exploration of issues of gender, race and ethnicity. Hlobo also has three other mixed-media on linen works featured in their own gallery, one on each wall.
The museum has a cutting edge range of paintings, photography, sculpture, short films, video installations, and mixed-media in their permanent collection, along with temporary exhibitions, and Centers for Art Education, Curatorial Excellence, Performative Practice, Photography, the Moving Image, and the Costume Institute. The general message of the works throughout the museum matches that of Hlobo– it is one that strives to call attention to the struggles for gender, racial, and ethnic equality.
The exterior architecture of the museum is a work of art in itself. The protruding “flies’ eyes” windows speak to the multi-faceted, multi-vocal magic that lies below, as they actually belong to the boutique luxury hotel that sits atop the museum.
Aptly named, The Silo Hotel is the perfect spot to lounge and have a drink after a full day of absorbing art. Their bar on the sixth floor, The Willaston Bar, is named after the first ship to export grain from the original silo complex back in 1924. Its stunning Cape Town views, delicious cocktails, cozy seating areas, colorful design, and funky mushroom lamps mingle for a unique and creative environment to unwind.
If you’re ever in South Africa, Zeitz MOCAA is a must-see cultural experience, and The Silo Hotel is a convenient and beautiful cherry on top.