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Afrofuturism’s New Cathedral


As much as the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) building itself is a work of profound beauty, the treasures contained within are breathtaking; as a collection, it’s unparalleled.
Image: Artist Cyrus Kabiru modelling “Vatican Mask Image: Artist Cyrus Kabiru modelling “Vatican Mask”

Occasionally, a crowd is a welcome, unexpected blessing. During it’s first two weeks of operation, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) saw some 30 000 people walk through its newly opened doors. Many of them probably had no idea they’d be seeing works such as this photograph of Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru modelling “Vatican Mask” (2015) one of his “C-Stunners” – fabulous, futuristic eyeglasses crafted from recycled urban waste.

Yet they came – en masse – to see what all the fuss and hype was about. Curious Capetonians and visitors from around the world stood in queues that twisted around the back of the refurbished grain silo so wondrously transformed by British designer Thomas Heatherwick.

And the reward for showing up is significant. As much as the museum building itself is a work of profound beauty, the treasures contained within are breathtaking; as a collection, it’s unparalleled. Kabiru’s works are just the tip of the iceberg. Never in human history has so much seminal contemporary African art appeared under one roof, and as you move through the 100-odd galleries, it is impossible to not be touched in some way by the creative rigour of the artists on display.

Kabiru’s eyeglasses – which are a kind of sculptural hybrid between the African mask-making tradition and a critique of modern technology’s apocalyptic trajectory – have made him a leading exponent of the Afrofuturism aesthetic. For years, he has pushed the boundaries of conventional craftsmanship, integrating sculpture, fashion, design and art by using found objects, waste materials and especially discarded bits of technology such as computer motherboards, to create wearable artworks that are both beautiful and comment on the growing scourge of urban waste. His work has been shown widely around the world, and forms part of several prestigious international collections.

Zeitz MOCAA is in The Silo District at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town; it is open 10am–6pm Wednesday to Monday, and until 10pm on ‘Late Night Fridays’, zeitzmocaa.museum.

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