\\ Two museums defining the contemporary African art scene

Zeitz MOCAA & MACAAL built on the periphery of the African continent are setting the pace for contemporary African art market

Modern African art has never had a home on the African soil, but in recent years there has been progressive change as major museums open up on the continent.

Among the museums leading the change are; the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town South Africa and the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech Morocco.

The two museums stand worlds apart on the peaks of the skull shaped continent squeezing it into a small land mass of African creativity, unique depiction of pan Africanism as they reshape the continent’s art scene.  

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa opened its doors to the public in September 2017, located in the Silo District V&A Waterfront part of Capetown South Africa and housed in the former grain Silos built 1921. The Fifty seven Metre tall silos redesigned by London based Heatherwick Studio underwent rigorous and well thought out makeover into a marvel expansive museum housing 1oo galleries, rooftop sculpture garden, state of the art storage and conservation areas, a bookshop, restaurant and bar, and various reading rooms. There are also plans to have the museum house a Costume Institute, and Centres for Photography, Curatorial Excellence, the Moving Image, Performative Practice, and Art Education.

Further in the north, the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden was soft launched in 2016 just in time for Marrakech Climate Change Conference, a year before the Zeitz. However, it opened its door to international audience in February 2018 during the Marrakech edition of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. The re-launch saw the world flock into the North West Africa country for a glimpse of African Art and the wonder housed in the 900m2 museum. The MACAAL is dedicated to promotion of contemporary African art through temporary exhibitions, educational outreach programs, workshops in the museum’s lab and biannual photography competition dubbed Le Chambre Claire among other activities.

The MACAAL and MOCAA are museums owned by individuals and not governments; the MOCAA is named after Jochen Zeitz former CEO of Puma, a member of B team with Sir Richard Branson and an art collector. Part of the MOCAA’s permanent exhibition contains Zeitz’s collection which is on a long term loan to the Museum.

(MACAAL)Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Marrakech, Image Courtesy MACAAL

The MACAAL on the other hand, is owned by Othman Lazraq and hotel developer father Alami Lazraq of Groupe Alliances. The permanent collection in the museum belongs to the two Lazraqs who have made a name as collectors of the art in Marrakech.

Even though Africa’s art market and creation has exponentially grown, the tuff has largely remained in the private hands of foreign individuals. Early advances in this field of making Africa’s art have a home was spearheaded by Alan Donovan of the Africa Heritage House Kenya and his counterpart Joseph Murumbi, the late former Vice president of Kenya. Although, Alan’s exploits were majorly commercial- with western markets in the mind- they set up footprints on the continent which so far has given birth to growth of African museums and galleries. Furthermore, the continent has experienced significant growth in art biennials like the Dak’ Art, FNB Jo’Burg Art Fair, East Africa Art Biennale among others.

It is about time that African governments realized the importance of art as part of the larger tourism market. Art does not just offer souvenir products but it is also a tourist attraction point ably proven by both the MACAAL and MOCAA. Even though both MOCAA and MACAAL have old money attached to them, they have proven that, the buzz created by such international standards launch and media presence could be the harbinger for the growth of the art sector. It just needs political good will for Africa to become the new Venice for the art world.

As of now, South Africa’s Cape Town – with her larger than life MOCAA overlooking the table mountains and the ocean and Marrakech- with her rich history and MACAAL have now set the pace for the major art shake up in the continent.   


Tweet: @MusunguW@ZeitzMOCAA@macaal_@afrowayonline

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