South Africa has made headlines recently thanks to political wrangling at the very top and a severe water shortage in Cape Town.
‘If it’s brown, let it drown; if it’s yellow let it mellow,’ say the graphic posters as the drought shows little sign of letting up, and residents are limited to 50 litres of water a day.
Despite such struggles, the city is upbeat. And that’s partly down to art, which is flowing more freely than ever.
Top spot: The colourful Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, with Table Mountain behind
The new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which opened in 2017, proves the point. Its arrival represents a landmark for local artists.
Of course, there are many reasons to visit Cape Town already: the raw wildness of its Atlantic Seaboard, its colonial architecture, colourful Bo-Kaap area and not forgetting Table Mountain, which ‘dressed’ or ‘undressed’ by cloud, dominates the city’s skyline. But the Zeitz Museum is the new star on the city’s original Victorian harbour, the V&A Waterfront.
It’s an extraordinary building. What was originally a grain silo, built in 1924 but long since abandoned, has been re-imagined by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, of London Olympics cauldron fame.
Its tubular interiors have been hollowed out to create an eightstorey atrium in the shape of a single grain, which allows access to more than 80 gallery spaces.
High-brow: The arty Silo Hotel offers a ‘seamless journey’ from gallery to accommodation
Within these, you can see the contemporary art of a continent: Mary Sibande, Cyrus Kabiru and Mohau Modisakeng hang there as does Swaziland-born (but South African-based) Nandipha Mntambo.
Inside the old grain elevator of the silo and rising above the museum is the Silo Hotel, which shares the same extraordinary bulging windows.
They are faceted rather like a mirror ball, allowing visitors a fragmented perspective of Table Mountain from their beds. Decor inside is by owner Liz Biden, whose choice of art overlaps in many instances with next door’s, providing a seamless journey from one to the other.
The 28 bedrooms are vibrant. Coffee cups — in African designed ceramics and locally made — match the rooms’ colour palette, while the sheets are proper linen. A freestanding bathtub waits seductively in the bay of the protruding windows for the end of the drought.
For a different and more affordable view of Cape Town, head over to Cape View Clifton, which sits on the rocks high above the Atlantic, in the wealthy suburb of Clifton to the south-west of the city.
Here, chic, muted interiors by Jess Latimer offer understated comfort and beach views. More B&B than hotel, it hits the spot: there is a lovely pool inset on the wooden deck from which you can waste hours watching the waves crash beneath you.
Though you should also make the most of its location to explore the vibrant culinary scene of Cape Town.
Beach bliss: Cape View Clifton is the best place to relax and watch the crashing waves
And in between the sleeping and the eating, what should you do? Call up Patrick Siebel at Luxury Africa. Based in Cape Town, Patrick curates big trips and small ones, from safari to seaside, but he is equally happy to spend the day giving you the insider view of the city.
If you like art, this could involve popping in for a coffee with the renowned Lionel Smit, highly acclaimed for, among other things, his portraiture of Cape Malay women.
But, with the sun shining, we decide to take off for Boulders Beach to see the African penguins famous for their donkey-like bray. We wind our way under the slopes of the famous Twelve Apostles, to Hout Bay, Patrick explaining local names and pointing out landmarks.
We pass deserted golden Long Beach, go through the fishing village of Kalk Bay — where Patrick tells me Cecil Rhodes died — and end up, post penguins, in Constantia, the first wine-producing area in the Southern Hemisphere.
At the cellar of David van Niekerk, bottles are opened and wine tasted. I learn about Cape Dutch architecture, about farming, about how David revived the wine estate of High Constantia. We drink to that, and to a new artistic chapter for Cape Town, as the sun descends.