Jochen Zeitz – The Man Behind The Zeitz MOCAA, Africa’s First Museum Of Contemporary African Art

The extraordinary importance of what businessman and philanthropist Jochen Zeitz has set out to do with the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), in partnership with the V&A Waterfront, will come to fruition next week when it opens its doors in Cape Town on the 22nd of September. The highly anticipated opening is a gargantuan step for Africa in that it is the continent’s (and the world’s) largest museum devoted to contemporary art from Africa. Over a period of a decade, Jochen’s passion for art saw him amass an extensive collection of African art, considered by many to be the leading global collection of contemporary African art, with the objective of one day housing it in Africa. It is this collection that will form the heart of the museum’s founding collection, as he has given it to the museum on long-term loan.

We caught up with Jochen to find out how his passions for Africa, conservation, sustainability, and flying have found common ground.

You grew up in Germany, and yet you have such a strong association to Africa, how did this come about?

When I was about 14 or 15 I saw a documentary called The Serengeti Shall Not Die that won an Oscar way back in 1959. It was by Bernhard Grzimek, a renowned German zoo director, zoologist, book author and conservationist, who predicted the importance of conserving wild animals and the world’s wild places. It made an impression on me, then and I suppose that (and his weekly TV show) stuck with me because when I finally visited Kenya in my mid-twenties, I was totally hooked. Africa continued to have a strong role in my business life too, in my past role as CEO of Puma we spearheaded a strong focus on African soccer where Puma sponsored the jerseys of Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Tunisia at the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, along with many other teams throughout the years. But I didn’t want to just be a traveler on the continent, and so the connection continued in my personal life when I bought a ranch in Kenya almost 14 years ago.

Tell us about Segera Retreat?

It’s a 50,000-acre wildlife conservancy on the Laikipia Plateau in Kenya, that sits between the Great Rift Valley and Mount Kenya. When I bought it, the land was totally degraded from poaching and overgrazing, and so I realized that this would not only be my home but it could also support the vision that my foundation had created. Namely, the 4C’s of conservation, community, culture, and commerce creating a win-win for people and the planet. Once the ecosystem was successfully reinstated and the wildlife had returned in large numbers, we opened an eight-villa eco-retreat where guests can discover a more relaxed and immersive way of being in nature, rather than the traditional safari way. I also use it for inspirational leadership gatherings, bringing together extraordinary people from all over the world to share their ideas, visions, and dreams.

Is it true that the plane from Out of Africa is on the property too?

Yes, it’s the same 1929 de Havilland Gipsy Moth biplane. I bought it because I thought it ought to return to Africa – flying over African plains is an unforgettable experience, and of course ‘Out of Africa’ brought the most incredible scenes of nature to so many around the world. But it’s also a symbol of how much Africa has changed since the film was released 30 years ago.

What does the Zeitz Foundation for Inter-culture Eco-sphere Safety, do exactly?

Our mission is to create and support sustainable, ecological and socially responsible projects and destinations around the world through the holistic balance of the 4Cs in privately managed areas. This is pursued internationally in conjunction with the Long Run Initiative, where we encourage sustainable thinking globally through our membership of primarily nature-based tourism businesses. This approach has also been implemented here in Kenya with the Laikipia Unity Programme, in which we nurture innovative initiatives that embrace the 4Cs approach. When ideas reach maturity and show real signs of promise, we share the lessons and experiences throughout the Long Run Alliance.

What drives your vision with these various initiatives?

Sustainability of conservation, community, culture, and commerce. The simple belief that if each of us does our own share of good, however large or small – to improve the way we live, think and act – and to recognize the interconnectedness of all, then the world would undoubtedly change for the better. In my view, business has a greater role to play in that it not only needs to contribute to nature by reducing negative impact but it also needs to affect positive impact by adopting more social and environmental way of doing business, rather than focusing solely on the financial. That’s why Sir Richard Branson and I started The B Team, bringing together an incredible collection of global leaders, who have all done great things for people and the planet, in an attempt to combine and define an agenda to make businesses more sustainable.

What would you say defines your personality?

I’m curious and adventurous; I love doing things that haven’t been done before.

 

If you’d like us to plan an itinerary for your next luxury African safari including a visit to the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, together with an incredible stay at Jochen’s Segera Retreat in Kenya then call us on +1 855 666 7626 or email us at welcome@roarafrica.com