Featured Artist: Mohau Modisakeng
South African, Mohau Modisakeng wears many artistic hats – working in sculpture, video, street art, installations, performance and photography. Our favorites are his more surreal and emotive works – where the subject’s face is obscured, some by mask-like objects and others by beautiful dusty clouds. Partially fragmented by smoke or chalk they imply a spiritual presence, an ambiguity of existence and/or the disintegration of matter.
Striking juxtapositions abound in his imagery, in his choice of media, subject matter and symbolism. Black versus white contrasts, dark versus light, soft versus hard, personal versus political, freedom versus enslavement, holding on versus letting go, separation versus unity, labor versus leisure and violence versus compassion.
“The colonial legacy of both Johannesburg and Cape Town remind us of that history more so in Cape Town where colonial infrastructure engineered to separate still inform how blacks and whites relate… My work is concerned with some of the tensions that arise out of that history and the memory of the violence imposed on black bodies in the span of Western rule on the continent. The effects of that history extend into the lived experiences of (South) Africans living in either city. Ultimately, South Africa’s past affects the conditions under which people practice and experience culture today.”
“The work doesn’t start off with an attempt to portray violence. The work responds elementary to the history of the black body within the (South) African context, which in most cases cannot be removed from the violence of the apartheid era and the early 90s. I think the work becomes mesmerizing because although we might recognize history as our past, the body is indifferent to social changes, so it remembers,” Mohau explains.
As a youth, Mohau’s mother would relate her prophetic dreams to him. “The way she told her visions to me, she compelled me to make art from them.”