The Daily Maverick: 'A conversation with Capetonians, expressions in art' By Keith Bain

Published 30 October 2020 in Press

The Daily Maverick

'A conversation with Capetonians, expressions in art'

By Keith Bain

The Daily Maverick

Published 22 October 2020


Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa has reopened with an extraordinary exhibition, groundbreaking not for the star status of its artists, but for its inclusivity and spirit of solidarity.

“It’s a love letter to Cape Town,” said Tandazani Dhlakama, one of Zeitz MOCAA’s assistant curators, speaking at the media preview of the museum’s reopening exhibition, Home Is Where The Art Is.

This, the Cape Town art museum’s first live showing of work in 219 days represents a watershed moment for the young institution, a shift in perspective, and a Herculean effort by the curatorial team to make the space more accessible to its primary interlocutors: Capetonians.

The show is the result of an open call for submission. Members of the public were invited to contribute their work for a mass exhibition. From professional artists, amateurs, Sunday painters and hobbyists, to children who draw for the love of it, folks inspired by the solitude of lockdown, and anyone who happened to have work in their home they wanted to show, anyone and everyone was invited to contribute; and all artworks will be returned to their owners once the exhibition is over.

Predictably, Instagram and other social media channels have been burning up with participants encouraging their friends and family to see their creations displayed in this extraordinary context. And, while it’s a brilliant endeavour to drive public attendance and fuel viral interest in the museum’s reopening, there’s a lot more to it than crafty marketing.

According to Koyo Kouoh, MOCAA’s executive director, the exhibition is an expression of the institution’s desire to actively make Capetonians part of the museum itself. And to make it a museum for all Capetonians, not just for tourists, and not just for a high-brow elite.

She says that with the exhibition, MOCAA aims to open a conversation with its core audience – people who live and work in Cape Town. It is also an exhibition marking the fundamental shift in our pre- and post-covid realities, recognising that our world is forever altered.

It’s a packed, packed exhibition – vibrant, remarkable in its scope, and somehow, even with some 2,000-odd vastly diverse works, magically comes together. It just clicks.

Rather beautifully, too.

Most striking – for me at least – is the sheer profusion of creativity that’s on display. It is a remarkable celebration of what it means to be human; what it means to possess the need or desire to express ourselves; what it means to imagine beyond the confines of one’s internal world. To share with others some part of who we are.

Gathered together are works representing a phenomenally broad range of tastes and backgrounds and interests. In other words, it is real evidence of inclusivity – at an unprecedented scale – within an institutional cultural environment.

There are expressions of joy and representations of beauty; figures suggesting pain and outbursts of anger and disquiet; there are strange surreal figures, studious portraits, pretty landscapes, works of photorealism; and highly abstract images, too.

The exhibition’s portraits cover a range of styles and subjects, including ones inspired by covid-19 (Image Keith Bain)