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Whimsical and Captivating: Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town

One of the latest, most interesting additions to Cape Town has undoubtedly got to be the trendy, opulent and all-round interesting Silo District. Aside from the easy access and close proximity this area offers to the ever-popular V&A Waterfront, it is also brimming with a wealth of its own exciting things for the whole family to see and enjoy.

There is a plethora of art galleries, restaurants, chic cafes and even a Lindt chocolate shop to be found here. But it is perhaps the impressive likes of Radisson RED, The Silo and of course, the world-famous, new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) that ultimately steal the show. These three show-stopping architectural, aesthetic marvels are where it’s at – and with good reason.

While they each cost more than a pretty penny to enjoy, it has to be said that this kind of quality, classiness and excitement has scarcely been seen in the city before. And yet, in the space of roughly one year, here in Cape Town, we have been introduced to all three.

I Got Zeitz-ed: Encountering Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA

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For my part, I was most interested to explore the Zeitz MOCAA. Years ago, while still at university, our professor told us all about the Zeitz MOCAA. Thanks to his affiliation to and appreciation of the arts, we learned of this unique museum long before many others had even heard of it.

So I had perhaps more reason to visit it than most. Especially when, added to this fact, (while still in my previous full-time job), I was one of the first people to research and write about it in South Africa.

Still, I confess: I am not usually a huge fan of art so it is perhaps a surprising thing to say. But quite frankly, I would pay just to go inside and see this incredible building.

Incredible By Design

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To be blunt, the Zeitz MOCAA is an architectural marvel – and one of the finest additions to the Cape Town landscape.

Designed by the hugely talented industrial designer, Thomas Heatherwick and opened as a not-for-profit endeavour by the V&A Waterfront and Jochen Zeitz – after whom the museum takes part of its name – the Zeitz MOCAA is special on many levels. And not just because it seeks to put African contemporary art on the global art map either.

Housed in a former grain silo complex – already famed for its historical significance to the Mother City, back when the harbour was used almost exclusively for key imports and exports – the museum is one of the most impressive and captivating buildings you will ever set eyes on, in Cape Town or otherwise… And with The Silo Hotel just next door, it stands in good company.

A Colossal Giant: Inside and Out…

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From the outside, geodisc windows gaze out like glazed, unseeing eyes, as the reformed silos tower above you. When you stand outside the museum’s main entrance and look up, expect to feel incredibly small. For myself, I was half-waiting for this vast structure to permanently blot out the sun…

But there is so much more to this colossal structure than its exterior. As inside, the museum is pretty enthralling from start to finish too and spans across nine exhibition floors, of which seven are open to the public. (Note: Two of these house temporary exhibits.)

Leave No Corner Unexplored

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Browse the impressive, well-stocked museum shop or wander down to the tunnels below (one of my favourite parts of the entire museum; they have a decidedly ‘zombie apocalypse’ vibe about them…) – but whatever you do, leave no corner of the museum unexplored.

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After stowing my bag safely away in one of the lockers (simply choose one and take the key with you; they’re numbered so it is easy to find yours again) and having my ticket scanned, I was off to explore the inner reaches.

I started off on Level 6, which is the highest you can go.

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Up here, you can also find the eatery, Zeitz MOCAA Food – managed by food and hospitality experts, The Aleit Group. This restaurant can accommodate 200 guests and offers 270-degree views of the city. (Note: If you wish to visit the restaurant, you will have to pay the standard museum admission fee.)

But it was the outside rooftop area that really enchanted me… With little more than glass around (and below) you, you have the most amazing views of Table Mountain and the city.

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Start here, as it will set the tone for the rest of your museum experience. (And if you’re brave enough, walk on El Loko/Kyle Morland’s ‘Now and Then’ ceiling, which covers the top of the silos.)

Levels: Down the Spiralling Staircase I Go

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While the museum offers an excellent lift system, it was the incredible and somewhat giddy spiral staircase that I stuck to – if only because it is an experience in itself.

I took my time exploring the open exhibition levels, feeling both inspired and somewhat perturbed by the art on display.

It’s unforgettable from start to finish and showcases some of the best contemporary African art of the 21st century – but if you’re not used to contemporary art, it will probably send a jolt to your senses…

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Some rooms – like Roger Ballen’s Room of the Ballenesque – contain muttering puppets, lifelike and crazed, which serves as a metaphor to the mind – or dramatic music, with war-ready horse and riders. While others offer visually stunning, detailed works of art, like South African artist, Athi-Patra Ruga’s long-term loan exhibits.

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Ruga’s works were my favourite by far: particularly the Proposed Model for Tseko Simon Nkoli Memorial, which was positively incredible to look at. This sculpture is intricately made from high-density foam, artificial flowers and jewels. (If that isn’t impressive enough, it also lies sprawled out on a beautifully lit plinth.)

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Each level offers a fresh, entirely diverse series of exhibits, which use all types of art forms, from photographic displays to statues and much more.

Stranger Than Fiction – but Cooler than Reality

There is plenty to see at Zeitz MOCAA – and somehow, each exhibit challenges your sense to some new degree… The imposing music elicits goosebumps, while other mounted displays are as stunning as they are quirky or unsettling. (For more information on the available exhibitions and artists, please see the Zeitz MOCAA website.)

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At the time of my visit, I saw the ‘Now and Then’ – El Loko/Kyle Morland, ‘All Things Being Equal’ and ‘Human Nature’ exhibits to name a few.

Keep in mind, depending on the schedule, these change up every few months or weeks. So if you are keen to see a particular exhibit or artist’s work, check out the exhibitions and events schedule online first.

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Overall, I really enjoyed my visit to the Zeitz MOCAA. I admit that not all the art was to my liking or of personal interest – but it makes for a fascinating experience. It is definitely something I recommend tourists (and locals) experience at least once.

Need-to-Know Info

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The Zeitz MOCAA is open Wednesday to Monday (including on public holidays), from 10:00 am – 18:00 pm. Last entry is permitted at 17:30 pm.

Entry costs R190 (per adult), while under 18s enjoy free entry on presentation of an ID.

These fees are valid until 1 September 2019. (Note: There are also some varied membership deals, which enjoy different discounts and benefits.)

What’s more, on the First Friday of the Month, there are extended opening hours – from 10:00 am – 21:00 pm (last entry is at 20:30 pm) – with half-price (R95) fees on the day.

But, best of all, all African citizens can enjoy free entry every Wednesday, from 10:00 am – 13:00 pm on presentation of an ID.

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Tickets can be purchased at the door – or online via Webtickets (this is what I did) and are valid for a single entry, seven days after the date of purchase.

Note: Cameras and smartphone photos are permitted inside the museum – but, out of respect and in favour of preserving the art, your flash must be turned off at all times.

For more information on the Zeitz MOCAA, please see their website – or contact them on: +27 (087) 350 4777, info@zeitzmocaa.museum.

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) can be found at Silo District, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.

Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan

Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.

Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.

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