Cape Town has always been a creative city, but recently there has been an underlying shift from thinking to doing. Creativity has spilled over from studios into the streets. There is street art, clever recycled crafts, bespoke and interesting art, furniture, fashion, clothing, pop-up bars and restaurants.
Beyond the capital
In 2014, Cape Town was the World Design Capital. The title-year was a kind of catalyst and since then the city has started showing her true colours with dozens of projects, events and experiences still in the making. The city’s annual calendar is packed with creative events – some of which launched in the World Design Capital year.
The annual Design Indaba draws global sway with its conference and expo of design from the African continent, whilst other events celebrate public art, like Infecting the City and First Thursdays. These events quite literally bring design, art, music and even theatre to the streets and invite inhabitants and visitors to engage.
Rising from the ocean
There is an iconic aerial image of Cape Town, taken from the air above the ocean, with the city’s Natural Wonder, Table Mountain, in the background, the harbour and Waterfront to the left and Lion’s Head to the right. In the middle of the image is the Green Point stadium, built for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, which South Africa hosted with spectacular success, despite global scepticism.
The stretch of beach directly below the stadium is where artist Janko de Beer collects the bull kelp for his contemporary futurist sculptures.
His sculptures are constructed by first creating a metal armature, which is then meticulously shrouded in dry bull kelp stems, bulbs and fins. Details and depth are added using non-drying modelling clay. The final product is then moulded and cast into limited editions of bronze and RPS resin.
Janko has done a series of horses, titled Equus and a series titled Umbabat, which beautifully depict the strength and movement of Africa’s wild cats. His current series, titled The Elders is a collection of faces and masks which are a contemporary interpretation of ritual and ceremonial African masks, based on the face painting techniques of the Dinka people of South Sudan.
Art meets architecture
A real triumph for creativity in Cape Town will be the 2016 completion of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA). The extraordinary architecture by Thomas Heatherwick will reimagine the city’s Waterfront area, connecting it to the central city through a cultural precinct.
Heatherwick, founder of leading UK-based venture Heatherwick Studio, and his architectural team have conceptualised a number of global landmarks, from the 2012 Olympic Cauldron to London’s New Routemaster bus, and now they – and local partners Van Der Merwe Miszewski Architects, Rick Brown & Associates and Jacobs Parker – are taking on the task of transforming the Waterfront’s historic Grain Silo into a one-of-a-kind exhibition space.
It’s set to span over 9 500 square metres across nine floors, with 6 000 square metres dedicated to exhibiting top installations and works by leading artists like Marlene Dumas, Nandipha Mntambo and Kudzanai Chiurai. In addition, around 80 separate gallery spaces will display both local and roaming international exhibitions. There will also be an entire floor dedicated to art education, a rooftop sculpture garden, a storage and conservation vault, a number of reading rooms, a bookshop, a café and a restaurant and bar.
The design will respect the original character of the old landmark Silo building while crafting a gallery that’s both internationally relevant and uniquely African. The state-of-the-art structure will combine concrete and industrial elements with pristine white cubes and cascading light to beautifully display the artworks, most of which form part of Jochen Zeitz’s own diverse private collection.
From jazz to juggling with fire
Music is a major part of Cape Town’s creative tapestry. Winter in the city is wet and chilly and residents head to the many cosy, fire lit, live music venues.
The most spectacular of these is undoubtedly The Crypt Jazz Restaurant, literally housed in the St George’s Cathedral crypt. The Cathedral, built in 1898, is an important Cape Town landmark and museum. The venue was started by entrepreneur Derk Blaisse, along with jazz musicians Mike and Diane Rossi, double bass player Wesley Rustin and bassist Spencer Mbadu. Their dream was shared by the Dean of the St George’s Cathedral, Michael Weeder, a jazz enthusiast himself, who had a vision the Cathedral as the ‘people’s church’.
The Crypt maintains the structure’s original stone columns and vaulted ceiling. The arches and walls have been painted a sultry midnight blue and the restaurant has red chairs, thick black curtains and bewitching black candles. The result is the feeling that you’re deep within a secret lair or a glamorous, old speakeasy. The Crypt offers jazz five nights a week and the line-up changes every evening.
Cape Town comes alive during the summer months, which are crammed with festivals, fun runs, concerts and carnivals. The city’s spectacular scenery makes for some excellent outdoor live music festivals and concerts, like the extremely popular Summer Sunset concert series at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
The area is also famous for its psytrance party season, which stretches for the whole of the summer. These parties are generally held on the outskirts of Cape Town, at scenic, rural locations. They play mostly live psytrance music, with no breaks between DJ’s and VJ’s for the duration of the events, which range from one to five days.
The most popular of these are undoubtedly the Vortex Trance Adventure parties, held about four or five times a year at a venue they own, called The Circle of Dreams. The décor at these events is pretty striking.
All kinds of people attend outdoor parties from preppy students to dreadlocked hippies in tie-dye clothing. Many dress up in crazy costumes and walk on stilts, hula-hoop or juggle with fire. An average party these days can easily reach the 1 000 people mark and they are well organised, with camping areas, large, psychedelically decorated dance floors, toilets, food and clothing stalls, and cash bars.