Art as a treasure hunt

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Athi-Patra Ruga, Mary Sibande, Roger Ballen – all have a home in this unique exhibition.

It’s heartening to see the interest South Africans and Africans have in visiting an art museum after 5pm on a Friday night. That’s the time usually allocated to sneaky cocktails, friends and kicking off a rowdy weekend, but rarely to contemporary art.

Every first Friday of the month, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art in Cape Town’s Silo District offers half-price entrance tickets and there is a flood of people through the doors. What happens is a collective appreciation that is a rare and unique experience.

If you’re a seasoned traveller, you probably remember seeing your first Warhol or Dali. A zing travels from your gut to your brain when you are faced with something you know is revered universally. At Zeitz Mocaa, African artists are in the front line of that zing. Athi-Patra Ruga, Mary Sibande, Roger Ballen – all have a home here – and all elicit a strong emotional response in visitors.

At the Louvre in Paris, the scrum of selfie sticks in front of the Mona Lisa is similar to what happens here. Whether it’s Ruga’s hypervivid The Knight of the Long Knives I, II and III, the response is the same. It’s something visceral and recognisable and that response from South Africans and foreign visitors shows the museum is promoting African art effectively.

A Treasure Hunt
As part of the First Fridays, the museum added another way to memorise artists creating works. These are the up-and-coming Sibandes and Kentridges who will
soon be in the backdrop of selfies at art fairs and museums. As part of one of the running exhibitions Still Here Tomorrow To High Five You Yesterday … (on
until June 30) when your ticket is scanned, you are asked if you want an added experience.

If you do, you are handed an A4 sheet, a pencil and a clue: “all the answers are on level 4”. Flip the sheet and there’s a few questions, plus a Where’s Wally-like challenge to look for specific pieces in the exhibition and answer a few questions about the artists.

The Afro-futurist exhibition explores ways artists, performers, writers and architects tackle the complexities inherent in the concepts of utopia and progress. From space travel, possible futures, black people as comic book heroes and the ideas of psychology, they delve into the past and the future to ferret out and present what we know and what we don’t know. As you work your way through the exhibition, you get to know names like Ablaye Ndiaye Abdoulaye, Michael MacGarry and Gerald Machona.

They are the future of contemporary art in South Africa and the continent. If you fill out all the answers correctly (and there are a few curve-balls among the questions) you will receive a Ruby Swinney print from her ethereal solo exhibition, Human Nature, at Zeitz Mocaa last year.

If you missed it, you’ll probably be googling her name – because on this treasure hunt you realise that art is capital – and then you snap a selfie.

First Fridays at Zeitz Mocaa is proof that contemporary African art is a valuable commodity and we have some of the best of it right here at home.

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