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"Zion 9, 2018" (inkjet on Hahnemuhle photo rag)" by Mohau Modisakeng. Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

South African Artist Mohau Modisakeng Makes Solo NYC Debut With 'A Promised Land'

The artist will present the video installation 'ZION' and other works centering on the "global history of displacement of Black communities" at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in Brooklyn.

Renowned South African visual artist Mohau Modisakeng presents A Promised Land, his latest solo exhibition, opening at Brooklyn's Jenkins Johnson Gallery this month. This marks the New York debut of Modisakeng's ZION video installation, based on the artists's 2017 performance art series by the same name. It originally debuted at the Performa Biennial.

"In ZION the artist deals with the relationship between body, place and the global history of displacement of Black communities," reads a press release. "There is an idea that all people are meant to belong somewhere, yet in reality there are millions of people who are unsettled, in search of refuge, migrating across borders and landscapes for various reasons."

In addition to the video, the show also features seven large-scale photographs that communicate themes of Black displacement. From 19th century Black settlements in New York City, which as the press release notes, were eradicated to clear space for the development of Central Park, to the scores of Africans who have faced conflict that has led them to life as refugees in foreign lands.


The exhibition also includes works from Modisakeng's 2017 series Passage, which debuted during the 2017 Venice Biennale. It's described as "a meditation on slavery's dismemberment of African identity and its enduring erasure of personal histories."

More broadly Modisakeng's work addresses "race, forced migration, the deep divides of post-apartheid South Africa, the post-colonial African continent, and the Global Black Diaspora as a whole" and has previously graced several shows and institutions, including the South African National Gallery, the Dak'Art Biennale and more. His statue honoring Nelson Mandela is set to be unveiled later this year at the Nelson Mandela Park in Amsterdam.

A Promised Land will open at Jenkins Johnson Gallery on Saturday, Feburary 29, get a preview of the exhibition via the images below.

"Untitled 28, 2018" by Mohau Modisakeng

Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

"Untitled 75, 2018" by Mohau Modisakeng

Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

"Untitled 12, 2018" by Mohau Modisakeng

Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

"Untitled 81, 2018" by Mohau Modisakeng

Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

"Ditaola XVI, 2014 (inkjet on Hahnemuhle photo rag)" by Mohau Modisakeng

Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery

"Metamorphosis 4, 2015 (inkjet on Hahnemuhle photo rag) " by Mohau Modisakeng.

Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery

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6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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