Cape Town has left me in awe on many occasions – that bizarre feeling of being so visually, emotionally, sensorially overwhelmed that you’re not quite sure if what you’re feeling is amazing or just too much, writes Cape Town Etc’s Robyn Simpson. A bombardment of ecstasy.
First contact with the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) is a perfect example of one of these occasions. It’s a sanctuary for art-lovers and creators that goes far beyond what’s been on offer to South Africans before. Its the Ferrero Rocher of art galleries. Gorgeous on the outside, and even better on the inside. Layers upon layers of sweet magic.
I visit often. While the exhibitions only change a few times a year, you see and feel new things each time you roam the revived former grain silo. Currently on show is, perhaps, my favourite exhibition yet: Home Is Where the Art Is.
This exhibition is a non-juried, democratic celebration of art belonging to and made by the people of Cape Town. Encompassing nearly 2 000 works by children, emerging and established artists, hobbyists, crafters, photographers, and masterworks from private collections, it comes at a pivotal moment as the country emerges from a hard-hitting lockdown.
The exhibition is arranged according to five themes, each encompassing literal and metaphoric interpretations:
- The Garden explores the life of plants, growth, cultivation, and labour.
- Outside encompasses landscape and public space.
- Inside includes interiors, domestic space and inner psychological states.
- Time notes the passage and marking of time as well as abstract expressions.
- Relations celebrates interconnectedness, relationships and communities.
Home Is Where the Art Is is a love letter to art, artists and our city, Cape Town.
With nearly 2 000 pieces studded across the walls, you can only imagine the visual feast on display (actually, you can’t. You have to see this one to believe it). I spent around six hours at the Zeitz earlier this month, and I’m almost certain that around five of these was spent gawking at these local delights.
I was completely lost. Warped from the world and in a universe of my own. Time and space melted into each etching and brushstroke. This must be heaven, surely?
I turned a corner into another room and my eyes instantly darted to a rainbow delight holding space proudly in the corner of the room. I’m not kidding, I think I ran at it to get a closer look.
It’s as if the artist managed to capture the essence of my soul, my style, my Capetonian life in a single frame. Rainbows, a glittered golden sun, ocean dips, my favourite Kleinsky’s bagels and ice cream. I could envision myself strolling past The Point mall or dancing into Clarke’s for toasted cheese and tomato soup. Cue that bizarre feeling of ‘too-muchness.’
This nameless, description-less masterpiece, while bright and groovy in its glory, made me feel somewhat emotional. It’s a small reminder of the life that once was – pre-pandemic. I miss the colour, the rainbows, the glittered golden sun and carefree Cape Town bliss. I miss it all.
Yes, I even miss “let me know when you’re home” because with that double-edged message comes a reminder of an abundant buzzing life that’s all too cooped up now.
See, part of the wonder and mystery attached to Home Is Where the Art Is is that there are no rationales or artist’s names attached on perfect little plaques next to each piece. The viewer is almost left to fend for themselves. Who was mystery artist number 387 and how do they know me so well? I had to find out.
After some digging (with help from the Zeitz), artist 387 was discovered to be Daniella Malkin, a 30-year-old preschool teacher from Johannesburg who has made the Mother City her home. This is her Edelweiss, a digital 4967 by 7022px, A1 print.
I started thinking about the word ‘home’ and what it brought up for me; I put on some music that I thought would help me access imagery, and I started doodling.
There are a lot of magical spaces and experiences in Cape Town. Living here can feel like paradise to many, especially to someone with my privilege. Yet this artwork speaks to more than just a “home sweet home” sentiment.
The image is a fantasy land of sorts, with rainbows, glitter and happy faces and places. Yet the text reads, “Let me know when you’re home” – a request friends and I use as a goodbye in our everyday lives. This is because, whether real or perceived, we as women feel an awareness of threat, and unsafety, and therefore demand this assurance from our friends.
Despite most people associating the word home with the feeling of safety, in creating this piece this assumption came into question for me, because if Cape Town is my ‘home’ yet I don’t quite feel safe; what does that say about my reality?
Creating is healing. Art is medicine.
Making this piece is part of a larger emotional, psychological journey for me. How we feel about home isn’t necessarily just positive or negative. I can love my home, acknowledge how incredibly happy I am here, but at the same time feel a sense of unease. There is a lot for me to be grateful for and there can also be space given to my feelings of disappointment. Both are allowed to exist and neither has to negate the other.
I believe I am a person who wants to find the good in moments, and make the most out of life. I love to celebrate and I believe in the power of beauty. I think I try to add a little more of it in this world. I also think it’s important for us to share our personal truths and tell our stories and my art practice is one way to share my experience with others. I draw for myself, first and foremost, but the idea or hope that someone else could get something positive out of it is thrilling.
The power of art in South Africa.
What I saw in this exhibition was how magnificent it can be to showcase the many different kinds, opinions, and interpretations of art. The submissions were open to anyone in the public and it made me realize how valuable it is for everyone to be allowed the opportunity to engage in their own creativity and for it to be appreciated by others.
Children make art in a preschool class every day, not just the children who are labelled the “creatives”, and everybody gets their art displayed on the walls. This means something to the kids. As soon as new work is up the kids look for theirs and want to take it home to show their parents. This sense of accomplishment, pride and achievement is important to all humans, and everyone should be able to showcase a little piece of ourselves; it’s a way to tell a part of the story of who we are.
Both art and people are progressive.
I’m still figuring out my stuff; my style, my subject matter, myself. I only recently returned to drawing after a few years off, and I am trying to only draw what makes me feel good. I want my art-making to be a pleasurable experience. I’ve been trying to set drawing challenges for myself and a lot of my current artwork is centred around the minutiae of my life. I love getting into a flow state with a piece and can find myself lost in the process for a couple of hours or so.
A journey to the Zeitz.
I had a lot of help from friends because the submission date clashed with a visit to my parents in Johannesburg so I wasn’t in town to print the artwork or take it to the museum. If it wasn’t for a group of very supportive people in my life, friends I met in my new home (Cape Town), I don’t know if the piece would have been in the show. A sort of meta moment. They schlepped and missioned to get my piece submitted. This was really emotional for me to realize I had made the kind of friendships that would pull through like that. Moreover it felt absolutely unreal to have something I made up on the walls of the Zeitz; that is not something I would have believed possible, it was a real bucket list moment and experience.
Edelweiss, by Dani Malkin, will be on exhibition at the Zeitz until October 2021. Go find the rainbow, and run towards it…
Artist Instagram: @danidoodledandy
Image: Supplied (not for printing or distribution).