Panel unpacks local art and design

The panellists were food artist and photographer Caro Jesse de Waal, developer for the V&A Waterfront and lead on the development of the Silo District, Mark Noble, and head of communications for the Southern Guild gallery at the Waterfront, Kelly Berman.

At the South African debut of the Unpacked series, South Africa’s role in the global art scene was highlighted.

Unpacked: A Conversation, hosted by the AC by Marriott Hotel on the Foreshore, took place on Thursday September 26 and was part of a series of discussions launched last year which brings together like-minded people to talk about travel, experience, vision and design.

Sandra Schulze Potgieter, vice-president for premium and select brands, Marriott International Middle East and Africa, said the series also aimed to involve guests in the conversations.

“Home to an unrivalled selection of African contemporary art, Cape Town is an ideal destination to debut the series in Africa and highlight South Africa’s role in creating inspirational moments and drive the creative expression,” she said.

With a focus on design and South Africa’s art scene, the speakers’ panel included food artist and photographer Caro Jesse de Waal, developer for the V&A Waterfront and lead on the development of the Silo District, Mark Noble, and head of communications for the Southern Guild gallery at the Waterfront, Kelly Berman.

One of the significant discussion points was the Zeitz MOCAA at the Silo District, the largest museum of contemporary African art. The project was led by Mr Noble, and the building and architecture has won many international awards, which put the museum in the global arena (“World’s eye on Zeitz”, CapeTowner, January 18, 2018).

The Silo District had also won six of the 2018 South African Property Owners’ Association (SAPOA) awards, including three coveted Best Overall awards (“Silo district scoops six property awards”, CapeTowner, July 26, 2018).

Mr Noble said the building, while showcasing contemporary art, was “almost too nice”.

“To construct a building is one thing, but to build an institution is another challenge.”

He said it appeared that people forgot that the district was built on grain silos dating back to the 1920s, so they tried to keep the historic narrative alive by creating the atrium of the museum using a piece of corn, and keeping some of the silos inside.

“At the museum, we wanted to focus on raw art and we created an area where people can express themselves and deal with confrontational art. South Africa is catching up to the international art scene – all the creative industries are pushing boundaries, and it’s booming.”

Ms Berman said South African art was unique because artists included strong traditional, hand-made detail that was not found anywhere else.

“South Africa’s creativity is fluent. We come from a background where everyone wants to collaborate and share ideas. Sometimes we don’t have the resources the rest of the world has, but that makes us think in other creative ways.”

Ms De Waal said African art was different because of the diversity and “mush” of cultures. “Here we break free from the styles of the world,” she said.

The panellists encouraged local artists to live their passion, emphasising the importance of making time to grow within their fields. Artists were also encouraged to submit their work to galleries, but were warned that it was a “jungle.”

Previous panellists in the series included renowned fashion photographer Nigel Barker, executive director of the Art Production Fund, Casey Fremont, and Esquire food and drinks editor, Jeff Gordinier.