WORDS AND IMAGES Erika Bornman
It was a big day for South African-born sculptor Michele Mathison when he took a call from Raphael Chikukwa, chief curator of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. He’d been chosen to be one of the five artists participating in the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.
And if you’re one of the billions of people not lucky enough to have seen that exhibition, never fear. The Zeitz Collection acquired Michele’s installations to keep them intact and preserve them for the people of Africa. And they’re currently on display at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) at the Scheryn Pavilion.
Not in Cape Town? Well, then you’re still in luck. The V&A Waterfront tasked local company 3Dscann to create a completely immersive 3D model of the space, so go on, have a walk around:
Mathison’s deep love for Zimbabwe and its people is evident in his conversation with Raphael at the opening of the exhibition last week.
‘Like so many Zimbabweans who have left the country, I still have one leg there and am always looking for ways to go back. And I’m interested in how people, despite what happens politically and economically, carry on with daily life. I like to use my work to present ideas. I’m not necessarily making a statement, I just present things the way I see them,’ he said.
On making Chibage – the installation of 1 200 ceramic mielies – he says that the curatorial theme of ritual fit perfectly with the cultivation of maize. ‘At a certain time of year when the rains start, everyone grabs their tools and gets ready to plant. Regardless of political turmoil or the size of your land, that’s what you do.’
Michele’s work not only interrogates humanity’s dependency on land, our traditions of crop cultivation, the value of labour, how symbols of labour have become political tools and symbols, and how we embed spiritual value in nature, but also our great violations of the very thing on which we depend for our survival.
Zeitz MOCAA is the first major museum in Africa dedicated to contemporary art. For now, its home is the Scheryn Pavilion next to the Bascule Bridge at the V&A Waterfront. But in 2017, Zeitz MOCAA will open in the transformed heritage-listed Silo building, repurposed through a design by Heatherwick Studio, in the Clock Tower/Silo District of the V&A Waterfront.
Find out more about 3Dscann on page 184 in VISI 80.