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“Projects: Dineo Seshee Bopape” at MoMA

July 1, 2023 @ 10:30 October 9, 2023 @ 17:30

What do our oceans remind us of? The movement of continents? Migratory schools of fish and mammals? The movement of ships carrying enslaved people across the Atlantic? The breath of those who sought freedom? These questions drive Dineo Seshee Bopape's multi-channel sound and video installation titled Lerato laka le a phela le a phela le a phela/My love is alive, is alive, is alive (2022). Based in South Africa, Bopape combines video, sound and natural materials in her works, considering how the social, political and spiritual histories of the African diaspora inhabit the physical world around us. Lerato laka le a phela pays tribute to the 12 million enslaved people who crossed the Atlantic – those who survived and those who fled to the waters in search of refuge. Through three canvases, the artist is seen submerging her hands and placing fruits, flowers and various offerings in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, near the coast of Jamaica. Audio elements are incorporated through Bopape's rhythmic water percussion and her singing in her mother tongue, Sepedi. The work was inspired by the whip-scarred back of an African-American man known only as Peter (previously mistakenly called Gordon), who escaped American slavery in the 18th century and whose story of spiritual resilience continues to be told through widely-recognized photography. disclosed. Projected onto a limestone surface, the videos are surrounded by a ring of stones. A soil wash was applied to the gallery walls. By uniting soil, rock, clay and water, the work allows multiple timelines – geological, historical and personal – to converge in the present. For Bopape, this connection with the physical world is an investigation of collective memory: “It is an act of spiritual and political rebellion to remember – not to forget what one is being asked to forget.”

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