Mohau Modisakeng at El Espacio 23

We’re delighted to share that in the near future three beautiful works from Mohau Modisakeng’s Passage and Zanj series will soon be on view at the El Espacio 23 Contemporary Art Space in Miami. ⁠

In his practice, Mohau Modisakeng confronts collective trauma; geographical displacement; and the socio-political, cultural, economic, and psychological implications of Africa’s violent colonial history. His new body of work draws on the history of slavery between East Africa and the Gulf area. Modisakeng’s exploration into this history was inspired by his recent performance work Land of Zanj, recently commissioned by the Sharjah Biennial. ⁠

In Zanj, Modisakeng created a choreographed procession as a symbol for the movement of bodies and trade between the Gulf area and the East African coast, using this history as a departure point for a larger meditation on the historical and present day implications of mass migration due to socio economic conditions. ⁠

This series contrasts the fragility and stoic strength of figures depicted on a bed of sand that becomes both an ocean and a desert to be traversed. In a poignant duality present throughout Modisakeng’s oeuvre, the bodies simultaneously become both the vessel and the cargo. ⁠

In Passage, the ebb and flow of water, as both life giving and deadly, symbolizes the many who have arrived or departed from South Africa in trade, as cargo or as transient bodies belonging to no particular state. In South Africa, systems of indentured labour and slavery were instituted by the Cape Colony in 1652 to meet the growing demand for labour. Dutch settlers imported people from the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Madagascar, East Africa and Angola, putting them to work on plantations and at ports. South Africa became a jostling ground between the Dutch and British, its native people rendered as mere commodities moving through the establishment of an industrialized mining economy, as labourers and as soldiers in the Anglo Boer and world wars.⁠

El Espacio 23⁠
Contemporary Art Space⁣⁠
⁣2270 NW 23rd St, Miami Fl, 33142⁣⁠

ABOUT Mohau Modisakeng

Born in 1986 in Soweto, South Africa
Lives and works between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Material, metaphor and the black body are the tools that Mohau Modisakeng uses to explore the influence of South Africa’s violent history that has been ignored in today’s society, on how we understand our cultural, political, and social roles as human beings in post-colonial Africa and in particular post-apartheid South Africa. Represented through film, large-scale photographic prints, installations and performances, his “work doesn’t start off with an attempt to portray violence but it becomes mesmerising because although we might recognise history as our past, the body is indifferent to social changes, so it remembers.”

Born in Soweto, an epicentre of black urbanity and cosmopolitan culture, the multi-award winning Mohau Modisakeng is a product of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art. Mentored by Jane Alexander and predominantly working and training in sculpture, he completed his undergraduate degree in 2009 then completed his Masters degree at the same institution. He was awarded the SASOL New Signatures Award for 2011 and has exhibited at Armory Show, New York (2016); Saatchi Gallery, London (2012); Dak’Art Biennale, Dakar (2012); Focus 11 and Basel (2011). In 2013 Modisakeng produced an ambitious new video work in association with Samsung as a special project for the 2013 FNB Joburg Art Fair. His work is included in public collections such as the Johannesburg Art Gallery, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town and SAATCHI Gallery, London as well as significant private collections such as Zeitz MOCAA.