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. Bagamoyo draws on the history of slavery between East Africa and the Gulf area. The term ‘Bagamoyo’ refers to a town in East Africa that once served as a busy slave port in the East-African/Arab slave trade. The loose translation in Kiswahili means “Lay Down Your Heart”. Modisakeng’s exploration into this history is a biographical response to his own; an attempt to further understand the intricacies of South Africa’s post-Apartheid, post-colonial present.
Additionally, Modisakeng’s movie ZANJ will be included in his upcoming solo-exhibition. ZANJ is a continuation from the performance Land of Zanj, recently commissioned by the Sharjah Biennial. Here, Modisakeng created a choreographed procession as a symbol for the movement of bodies and trade between the Gulf area and the east African coast. This strategy is mimicked in the artist’s latest photographic series, which shows figures cloaked in black moving across a rocky terrain. Who are and were these veiled subjects? Could they have been Africans captured to be pearl-divers, led between home and circumstance? Or could they be deporting migrants, a contemporary relic of the aforementioned history? Modisakeng urges the audience to engage with these figures as poignant markers of this legacy of movement, using invocations of violence as a tool to evoke empathy in the viewer.
Mohau Modisakeng (SA, 1986) is based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, we he received his education at the Michaelis School of Fine Art. He won the SASLO New Signatures Award and the Standard Bank Young Artists Award and represented his country at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and 2017. He has also shown at Volta, New York; Saatchi Gallery, London; Dak’Art Biennale; Sharjah Biennial; PERFORMA17, New York and many more significant international institutions. He recently was commissioned to create a memorial for Nelson Mandela, which will be revealed in Amsterdam Zuidoost’s Nelson Mandelapark in 2020.