Skip to content

Zeitz MOCAA Unveils ‘Sala’ its new permanent collection

Works from artists like Athi-Patra Ruga, Lungiswa Gqunta, and Zanele Muholi welcome Sala to the museum

Bookmark article to read later

By Kimberley Schoeman  | December 15, 2023 | Art

This month, Zeitz MOCAA unveils its new permanent collection exhibition titled Sala. The result of an innovative collaboration with the 2023 Zeitz MOCAA & University of the Western Cape (UWC) Museum Fellows, the exhibition invites visitors to engage with thought-provoking questions and reimagine the museum as a dynamic, transformative space.

Central to the exhibition is a set of questions that invite audiences to explore and reflect on the limits and possibilities of the museum. This invitation is championed by the title of the exhibition — Sala. A word that is common among many Nguni languages in Southern Africa, ‘sala’ is part of a call and response between people parting ways: hamba kahle, which provides well wishes of safe travels to those departing, and sala kahle, which welcomes those who are staying behind to stay well.

Mouna Karray. Image courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA.

Opening on 15 December 2023 and running through 12 April 2026, Sala features the work of 17 influential artists from Africa and the diaspora, including Joël Andrianomearisoa, Thania Petersen and El Anatsui. The exhibition asks patrons to stay, reflect and actively participate in Zeitz MOCAA’s journey towards becoming a catalyst for African and diasporic artistic knowledge.

Through an in-depth research project in collaboration with the 2023 cohort of Zeitz MOCAA & University of the Western Cape (UWC) Museum Fellows, this exhibition aims to better understand the values of the institution, the role of contemporary art in society, how the museum’s team link and mediate the work of artists, and how the institution connects with and becomes a home for its audiences.

Salah Elmur. Image courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA.

“More than simply a way to articulate and mediate the contents of Zeitz MOCAA’s collection to the public, the process behind Sala was consultative and collaborative, bringing together staff groups from across museum departments,” says Storm Janse van Rensburg, Senior Curator and Head of Curatorial Affairs at Zeitz MOCAA and the principal curator for the exhibition. “The decision to engage in a dialectic process with the Zeitz MOCAA & University of the Western Cape (UWC) Museum Fellows provided further insight into how our institutional identity is shaped by our holdings.

“I am indebted to my collaborators in this process — Evaan Jason Ferreira, Bulelwa Lomusa Kunene, Mona Eshraghi Hakimi, Pauline Buhlebenkosi Ndhlovu and Ana Raquel Machava — as well as every museum team member who provided insight and guidance or offered different perspectives. Through this process, we have furthered our goal of embracing curatorial practice, exhibition-making and institution-building as intertwined, inseparable, conjoined and entangled.”

Rashid Johnson. Image courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA.

Sala is an invitation by Zeitz MOCAA to its visitors to stay with the artists featured in the exhibition as well as to stay with the institution in the reimagining of the museum as a new embodied space.

Neo Matloga. Image courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA.

The 17 artists chosen to be featured in the exhibition demonstrate the shifting meaning of ‘sala’ within the show itself: from a question or set of questions to an invitation to stay and contemplate and converse (with the artists, the artworks and the space). Throughout the exhibition galleries, audiences will have the opportunity to engage and reflect with artists such as South African multi-disciplinary artist Thania Petersen, who provides soundscapes from her Sufi spiritual upbringing; Malagasy inter-disciplinary artist and designer Joël Andrianomearisoa, who navigates time using black and white photography; and Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, who elevates everyday materials to challenge the constraints of geographical place.