And So The Stories Ran Away at Zeitz MOCAA is an innovative exhibition which celebrates stories from Africa writes THERESA SMITH.

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa has opened its first exhibition ever aimed at children. Spread across the tunnels on the lowest level of the art museum, And So The Stories Ran Away is an interactive exhibition which celebrates stories from Africa.

The fantastical exhibition invites children into a multi-sensory, interactive experience with works of art specifically created with them in mind.

Holding Up the Sky, And So The Stories Ran Away at Zeitz MOCAA
Holding Up the Sky, And So The Stories Ran Away at Zeitz MOCAA

Space for children to interact with art

At the exhibition press preview Zeitz MOCAA Communications and Marketing Manager Lauren Hess pointed out that this particular exhibition was all about creating “a beautiful, safe space” for children to interact with art. “So often we as the museum are the mediators for the understanding of a work, so this is about allowing the children to have their own work,” said Hess.

Curated by the Zeitz MOCAA’s Centre for Art Education the exhibition is the result of a collaboration between third year students from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, second year students from the Ruth Prowse School of Art and artists from the Nyanga Arts Development Centre as well as two artist mentors.

The two artist mentors, Jill Joubert and Isabelle Grobler, together with Ruth Prowse lecturer Lynette Bester, also created artworks to exhibit alongside the work of the students.

As part of the development process Joubert used a Nigerian Ekoi legend of how the character Mouse visits the homes of people to gather their stories. While Mouse at first houses the stories in her own labyrinth-like underground home, the stories eventually venture forth into the world.

Co-curator and Centre for Art Education head Liesl Hartman explained their usual process with children who attend workshops or art programmes at the Zeitz MOCAA is to focus on a specific artist or one art piece, but this exhibition allows the children a way to use their imaginations to become part of the story.

“A museum is about storytelling at its most sophisticated level. The frame is the Nigerian story of Mouse and the artwork is the story children. It was important to workshop this with the students and we engaged them around writing for children. We want the children to complete the stories and create their own,” said Hartman.

In addition to mentoring students as they worked and creating her own interpretation of stories, artist Jill Joubert also produced a book version of the exhibition frame story, The Tale of Mouse and the Stories That Ran Away.

Created on sugar paper using risograph printing, these limited edition books will be numbered and signed by Joubert. They feature intricate insect track images which helped to spark the students and artists’ imagination about Mouse’s house. Putting the exhibition in the Museum’s tunnel system not only echoes the story but leads any children who visit the exhibition to the Art Education Centre space.

Children visiting the exhibition with their families can also use a booklet which features the specific stories student used for artworks – with names like Uncle Noor’s Pigeons Fly Home and The Quest of Anansi the Spider Man – to explore the tunnels at their own pace.

What: And So The Stories Ran Away
Where: Zeitz MOCAA, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
When: Until 30 March 2020
Children’s workshops/events: