The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art has seen well over the estimated amount of visitors stream through its doors since opening this past Heritage Weekend and executive director and chief curator Mark Coetzee predicts that interest and traffic will only increase. I met with him a few days ago, in one of the temporary exhibition spaces at the museum. Surrounded by Zimbabwean raised artist Michele Mathison’s pale white mealies and charcoal black tree stump sculptures, we chatted about the significance of the museum, how it is already shifting mindsets when it comes to African art and the debates that such a notable institution attracts.

There is no denying that the museum has received a fair amount of criticism, particularly from the South African art community, during the nine-year long process from inception to fruition. Most of these criticisms centre around the fact that there is a lack of diversity on the board and that it previously hasn’t engaged enough with the local art community. The main players; German Jochen Zeitz, former Puma CEO and the primary benefactor and owner of the majority of the permanent collection, Mark Coetzee, chief curator and British architect Thomas Heatherwick who converted the original grain silo dating back from the 1900s into the awe-inspiring museum it is today are all white men, supposedly approaching the museum with a euro-centric point of view.

However, Rachel Davis from the Daily Maverick presents a more balanced view in her article Zeitz Mocaa: Cape Town’s new art museum stuns and provokes

“Much of the criticism of the Zeitz Mocaa project up till now has seemed fairly vague and ill-defined. That it is “elitist”; that it too closely mirrors similar museums in the West; that it has not “engaged closely” with local artists and galleries. It is hard not to feel that some of this comes down to parochialism, envy and snobbery …” Bizcommunity: read more