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So much to see, so little time at the new Zeitz MOCAA

Hank Willis Thomas, All things being equal... (2010)

With seven floors open to the public, more than 100 gallery spaces packed with African contemporary art and some spectacular architecture to enjoy, there is much to take in on a first visit to the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town. The museum is also opening (on 22 September) with 10 individually curated shows on offer, so you might want to make a note of the exhibitions you absolutely have to see rather than trying to speed through everything. The group opening show All Things Being Equal... is probably the best place to start. Inspired by an artwork by contemporary conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas from the USA, it presents a wide-ranging look at contemporary work by artists from Africa and the African diaspora. The show combines works from the Zeitz MOCAA collection with items on loan from other institutions around the world, and includes pieces by more than 40 different artists – among them rising stars and well-known names. They range from Benin’s Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou to Kenya’s Wangechi Mutu, and the show includes loads of great South African art by the likes of William Kentridge, Mary Sibande, Mohau Modisakeng and Sethembile Msezane. This is one exhibition that no visitor to the museum will want to skip.
Wangechi Mutu, Second Born (2013)

There’s plenty of photographic work on offer at the Zeitz MOCAA, and two solo shows showcase work by Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai (read our longer take on this exhibition, entitled Regarding the Ease of Others here) and Tunisian photographer Mouna Karray. Karray’s work, exhibited here in a show called Off-the-Air, features the artist herself, although she is never really visible to the viewer. Her work is haunting and memorable, raising a wide range of questions about the relationships between human beings and the landscapes we inhabit. Nandipha Mntambo, from Swaziland, is an artist whose work ranges from photography to unique sculptural forms created using cowhides, and the Zeitz MOCAA’s solo show dedicated to her work is entitled Material Value. As curator Mark Coetzee puts it in the notes on this exhibition, Mntambo’s ‘obsessive use of bovine by-products and the complex associations we attribute to cattle allows a multiplicity of readings of [her] work’ and this mid-career retrospective is the ideal introduction to her oeuvre for anyone who has not previously encountered her compelling and complex creations.
Nandipha Mntambo, Emabutfo (2009)

It will probably be impossible to miss South African artist Nicholas Hlobo’s remarkable sculptural work, ‘iimpundulu zonke ziyandilenda’, as it has been installed in the central atrium of the museum. Nevertheless, it’s worth spending some time considering the beauty and strangeness of this piece, which represents Hlobo’s take on the Xhosa legend of the Lightning Bird, and was originally created for the Venice Biennale in 2011. Discover the House and Leisure team’s individual picks of what they are most looking forward to seeing at the Zeitz MOCAA here. Find more information about all the shows opening on 22 September 2017 here and practical details for planning your visit at zeitzmocaa.museum.