‘Is Zietz Mocaa equal?’ – Arts students review Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

A group of Fine Arts students from Stellenbosch University couldn’t resist the hype around the opening of Zeitz MOCAA. When they had to select an exhibition for a review-writing course, the decision was unanimous, and they attending All Things Being Equal, on until 19 February.

So one Wednesday – the day the museum is open for free to the public – they gathered to visit the new attraction. Here is a selection of their impressions, edited by their art-writing lecturer Valeria Geselev.

The Cheapest Museum in the Cape
 Pink Lips 

My Instagram feed:
ZEITZ MOCAA: Wednesday mornings 10am-1pm FREE for all South African Citizens. Will we be seeing you at the museum today? #ZeitzMOCAA
MY REPLY: I want to see Zeitz Mocaa because of the hype on Instagram, honestly. I want to see all the six floors of African art. I want to see everything. So I went on Wednesday, because it is for free and I cannot afford R180 a ticket, I am a student!

I was a kid in a candy store and I oooh and aaah all the way through, until something clicked. Who am I within this exhibition? Because Zeitz Mocaa classified me as a South African and that’s how I gained free entry. But Zietz Mocaa is situated in the V&A Waterfront, a tourist attraction with very expensive shops. I then asked a Zietz Mocaa usher if they had better deals for students and her reply was “we are the cheapest museum in the Cape”. Ha ah to me, as a student, “the cheapest” is free.

I am sorry, I did not feel equal. Equal means fair. And having one free weekday morning does not qualify free. Also who is free in the middle of the week when adults have work and students are at school or university. Then my question stands: Is Zietz Mocaa equal?

Overstimulated and Overwhelmed
Jessica Storm Kapp

After making our way through the Stellenbosch-Cape Town traffic and waiting in line to enter the museum, we were escorted into the first exhibition level. All Things Being Equal was the name of the exhibition, but the artworks within the exhibition and my experience did not express anything equal at all. If anything, my experience of the entire exhibition was that nothing was fair. Each piece demanded your attention in some way or another – an installation by Mary Sibande on one side, paintings by Penny Siopis on the other. The works exhibited were loud and pulled me in every direction, by means of sound, colour or size. William Kentridge’s video piece echoed throughout the exhibition along with the sounds of the chatter from visitors. I was completely overstimulated.

The day free entrance is granted to all South African citizens, was the day that it was the most inaccessible. Entering into small spaces with hundreds of people made me feel completely overwhelmed by the entire experience. 

If I had to sit down and calculate how much time I had dedicated to waiting in lines, in traffic, entrance, for our driver, to re-enter the room versus the actual time spent looking at the artwork themselves, I would have hardly spent any time there at all. I hope to visit sometime soon at my own leisure when I can engage with the work in a more comfortable manner.

Nericke Labuschagne

Who all is driving with who? Is everyone here? Last minute cancellations. Breath. I have my yellow jacket on. I feel arty. I’ve got my coffee and croissant and good music is a definite in Steph’s car. Ticket, park, the smell of resin, the lift speaks, we get out and get in the line. Where is Charles? Get tickets for everyone. Give everyone their ticket, everyone get in, stand, wait, talk, where is Charles? Breath. Are they here yet? No, let’s go on so long. Past people, “dis onregverdig”, up the stairs. A lot of colour, a lot of people, people of colour? Reflections on paintings, go, go, go. Go put your backpacks away. Go on and on and on. Go outside. Breath. Talk, write feedback, collect reviews, collect feedback, not everyone’s is here, hand over, smile for a photo. Breath.

Let’s start again. Get into the lift, look at the bird welcoming me again. Look at the art, all the detail, all the textures and me in awe. A face that looks as though it is going to wake up any moment now and scream at me, details captured capture me. I am in awe. Thousands and thousands of beads, a cube of beads, all the work, all the hours captured in all shades on a wall. I pose for a photo.  Walk, look at art, a lady compliments my yellow jacket, I feel arty. Get in the lift, go up. Look at some more art. Breathing.

Overwhelmed, inspired, posters hidden in my yellow jacket, where’s Charles, there’s Charles. Breathing.

Greeting the welcoming bird goodbye, I am happy that I am not trapped like him.

Find the One You Love
McKayla Carstens

How to make an exhibition experience as uncomfortable as possible. That is initially how I wanted to describe my visit to the Zeitz MOCAA. It was a Wednesday morning and the arty hoards gathered to get a free ticket into the museum. What did the hoard really go to see? Cameras were flashing and people were smiling, but did they take the time to understand the artwork they stood in front of?

Entering the space, I was bombarded with women wearing uniforms and excessive make-up, telling me what to do. 

The first floor contained a spectacle of colour, glamour and lights: “This is Africa” comes to mind. The artworks compete for the viewers’ attention and the experience becomes another tourist attraction, defeating the point of decolonisation.

As people began to filter out, both artwork and viewer gained breathing space — enough so as to converse with one another. Then the spectacle became enjoyable. I had space to find and explore the artwork, which most compelled me. Weaving in and out of different spaces, up the stairs and through the corridor, I am captivated by one installation. Ten Thousand Waves by Isaac Julien, was the first piece that spoke to me. Surrounded by video projections jumping from one screen to the next, I immerse in the philosophical narrative of the piece.

A viewer is sure to notice an artwork which has true impact on them, amongst this landscape of building, art and people.


Photographs by Joanne Corrigall (Dr Mojo Films)

Learn more about Gallery University Stellenbosch

Between 10 and 5