Mohau Modisakeng: Nelson Mandela Memorial

On Sunday 5 September, the new Nelson Mandela Memorial, created by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng was unveiled by Femke Halsema, mayor of Amsterdam. Mohau Modisakeng’s most recent project is a series of seven bronze sculptures titled Rona Batho (which translates to “We the people”). The project was commissioned by CBK Zuidoost, and is installed in the Nelson Mandela Park in Amsterdam South East. Modisakeng explains that the sculptures are a commemoration of the spirit of community and a common humanity.

People who were voted as “important to the community” are the faces of the sculptures. Amsterdam South East has a large migrant community, and the Nelson Mandela Park is an important space to the members of the community; protests, celebrations and concerts are held there, says Mohau.

I’ve realised with sculptures that it can’t just be ideas and sketches. You need to physically be with the materials.

“The park is a place that’s already active in their imaginations. [The sculptures] will hopefully add another dimension to that story,” Modisakeng explains. He would like to go and see the sculptures with his family once they have been installed. “If not this year, it will always be there, so we will be able to see it at a later stage.”

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.