/ 25 October 2022

Zeitz Gala celebrates black excellence in art

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Inside look at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Picture: Supplied

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is hosting its first annual fundraising gala and dinner in partnership with Italian luxury brand Gucci. A night of “Art & Opulence” is planned for 19 November 2022 in Cape Town. 

The highly anticipated event will be followed by a show-stopping afterparty that promises to highlight and celebrate the beauty of arts in Africa in an exhibition titled When We See Us (inspired by the 2019 Netflix series When They See Us). 

Although the exhibition draws from the series, it focuses on examining black self-representation through the use of portraiture and figuration in painting. The exhibition is said to be the largest of its kind in Africa, including more than 200 art pieces from the past 100 years. 

Featured artists include Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Zandile Tshabalala, Jacob Lawrence and Cheri Samba. Nigerian-born visual artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s work takes from Western painting history while touching on African culture. Inspired by Crosby, recent Witwatersrand University graduate Zandile Tshabalala’s work is identified through her deliberate positioning of black bodies at the forefront of her pieces. Her portraiture illustrates black women and black female bodies in a desirable, confident and sensual manner, speaking to the importance of self-representation by black women. 

American painter Jacob Lawrence was known for his illustrations that documented and recorded African American history. Lawrence’s most notable work is his Migration Series which recalls the historical migration of more than one million African Americans from the rural northern states to urban and industrial cities such as Chicago, New York City and St Louis during the early 20th century. The series, which captures the migration between 1940 and 1941, includes six panels that provide a window into black industrial labourers’ lives during the civil rights movement. 

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cheri Samba’s career began as a sign painter in Kinshasa, where he later opened his own studio in 1975, and later became an illustrator for entertainment magazine Bilenge Info. It was there that he developed his skill of combining his paintings with words, which would go on to serve him well in his career. Samba’s popularity was stimulated when his art was featured at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in an exhibition in 1989 titled Les Magiciens de la Terre, curated by Jean Hurbert Martin. His work is mostly marked by the revelation of the social, economic, political and cultural life of then Zaire from 1971 to 1997. His art touches on a number of topics including sexuality, popular customs, Aids, social inequalities and corruption. 

The gala will also commemorate the five-year milestone of this one-of-a-kind museum while promoting the arts in Africa, mainly South Africa. MCd by former Miss South Africa Jo-Ann Strauss, the dinner will be co-chaired by Zeitz MOCAA executive director and chief curator Koyo Kouoh with Carol Bouwer and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Kouoh is a Cameroonian-born curator and the founding artistic director of Raw Material Company, a centre for art, knowledge and society. The company provides programmes for writers, curators, artists and researchers from different nationalities in Dakar, offering them a chance to receive education on the study of “artistic and curatorial practice and thought”. 

One of her significant works is the exhibition Body Talks, which explored feminism, sexuality and bodies through the work of six African artists, defining these concepts by using women’s bodies as “ a tool for representation” and as a platform of examination. 

Kouoh emphasised the importance of preserving and celebrating art from Africa and the diaspora. “At a time when many institutions across the globe are continuing to feel the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, this event provides Zeitz MOCAA with an opportunity to further its goals and continue to strive towards access for all and the education and celebration of art from Africa and its diaspora,” Kouoh said. 

The award-winning musician and entrepreneur DJ Zinhle will be part of the evening’s entertainment. She shot to fame after releasing My Name Is in 2012 and has since gone on to develop businesses including jewellery and accessory line ERA By DJ Zihnle and hair company Hair Majesty. 

Also taking to the stage will be Cape Town based DJ Stunna and self proclaimed gqom king NV Funk whose music infuses a mixture of house and live drums with television presenter and radio personality Thabiso Makhubela as MC for the after party.

Make sure to purchase your ticket for the 2022 Art + Opulence gala party!