Portrait of Siseko Simphiwe Maweyi

Siseko Simphiwe Maweyi
Cape Town, South Africa


Art and design in Cape Town, as in much of the rest of the country and the continent, is reflective of the conversations on sustainability, a deliberate consciousness of the reality in which we exist and a rejection of being confined to any one perspective. The ability to synthesise the multimedia approach that many artists undertake into their signature language of expression displays the multi-disciplinary way in which many of our people construct themselves and pursue their goals.

Art has always been an interest of mine. I remember that even in my early days living in a Township called Gugulethu, I would take my mother’s sarongs and wrap them around my body; playing around with silhouettes and colour and texture. I think it was this particular freedom and having an early childhood art education, that spurred me onward. I was also a musician, so it is quite difficult to point to any time as the beginning. I guess you could say that art was all around me and in turn it became a part of me. I left school as an Allan Gray Orbis Foundation scholar. I’ve worked in restaurants, bars and retail. As versatile a working life as I had, I still felt everything was pointing me to my career at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Yet, I enjoy that I can still make a mean espresso.

This story first appeared in The Captivating Cape Town Issue, available in print and digital.

This story first appeared in The Captivating Cape Town Issue, available in print and digital.

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The boundless potential of the Zeitz MOCAA excites me to no end. It affords artists the space to become anything and constantly strive to be their best. One could argue that it deconstructs much of the elitism inherent in many an art institution. Its public-facing identity galvanises its ideation into a deliberate and conscious program that facilitates individuals from all walks of life. What I think sometimes people struggle to understand is that race – and with that, socio-economic stature – was a primary informer of what opportunities one could access, so that imposed restrictions on artists of colour coming through the ranks. But if one wants to find ideas and conversations being brought to life from a global lateral perspective concerning Africa, the Zeitz is the place to be. It is, in part, a culmination of many an African artist’s dream; a space that is unapologetic in its celebration of a canon of art. It is, in my mind, the construction of an economy dealing with the creative excellence inherent in the continent and beyond. It is an engine fed by the dreams, discourses, and unrelentingly honest identities of Africa and its diaspora. It is quite a grand engine of thought, but I feel at home.

All the work at the Zeitz is great, but if I must choose my favourites, they would be the series Faces and Phases by Zanele Muholi and Sunday Morning (Predecessors #3) by Njideka Akunyili Crosby. The scale of Njideka’s work and the portrait archive of Zanele extend quite a lot of thought space to contemplate and be in the nuances of the queer identity, the notion of home and what the continent and its social dynamics look like.

Like anywhere in the world, LGBTQ+ people of colour are often at the forefront of movements and social innovations. The spatial planning of the city may cause delays in the ability for cross-community sharing, yet LGBTQ+ people are creating in a way that is powerful, authentic and uncompromising.

Outside the Zeitz, there is a large swathe of galleries scattered around Bree Street and Loop Street. The Old Biscuit Mill, for example, has been transformed into a design and arts centre, so in Cape Town, there are now greater opportunities for emerging artists to showcase their work. And with room for a conversation and more funding for art in the city, brilliant homegrown artists like Hasan and Husain Essop, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Loyiso Mkize, Penny Siopis and the interesting collaboration that is the self-billed “aggressively progressive’” ApeShitYOUTH are getting their voices heard.

@siseko_maweyi | www.zeitzmocaa.museum

Interview and photography by Martin Perry