Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Passage
  • Mohau Modisakeng
  • Passage, 2017
  • Three-channel HD video, 18:49 minutes
  • On view: Kemper Balcony, 408
  • EL2018.089
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text
Exhibitions

Exhibition Label:
"Passage", 18-Aug-2018
Mohau Modisakeng
born 1986, Soweto, South Africa
Passage, 2017 three-channel video installation, 18:49 min
Passage by Mohau Modisakeng offers a meditation on slavery’s fracturing of African identity and its enduring erasure of personal histories.
Each of the artwork’s videos confronts viewers with a different character traveling with a single possession:
a woman with a hawk perched on her arm, a young man in a Trilby hat (a narrow-brimmed hat popular in the 1960s), and a woman wrapped in a Basotho blanket (a tribal blanket traditionally worn by Sotho people in South Africa). As the passengers lie on their backs looking up at the sky, they begin to perform a series of actions that move between gestures of struggle and resignation. Rising water gradually floods the boats, leaving the passengers submerged while the boats slowly sink and eventually disappear.
The ebb and flow of water, both life-giving and deadly, symbolizes the people who have arrived or departed from South Africa through trade as cargo or as transient bodies belonging to no particular state. In 1652, European colonizers in South Africa
instituted systems of indentured labor and slavery. Dutch settlers trafficked people from the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Madagascar, East Africa,
and Angola, putting them to work on plantations and at sea ports. The Native peoples of South Africa became commodities to Dutch and British colonizers who used them as laborers and soldiers.
In Setswana, one of the official languages of South Africa, life is referred to as a “passage.” The Setswana word for life, botshelo, means “to cross over.” As such, all human beings are referred to as bafeti, or voyagers. As with any voyage, life has a beginning and an end.
Passage was commissioned by the South African Department of Arts and Culture for the 57th Venice Biennale.

Mobile App Exhibition Label:
"Passage", 18-Aug-2018
Passage by Mohau Modisakeng offers a meditation on slavery’s fracturing of African identity and its enduring erasure of personal histories.
Each of the artwork’s videos confronts viewers with a different character traveling with a single possession:
a woman with a hawk perched on her arm, a young man in a Trilby hat (a narrow-brimmed hat popular in the 1960s), and a woman wrapped in a Basotho blanket (a tribal blanket traditionally worn by Sotho people in South Africa). As the passengers lie on their backs looking up at the sky, they begin to perform a series of actions that move between gestures of struggle and resignation. Rising water gradually floods the boats, leaving the passengers submerged while the boats slowly sink and eventually disappear.
The ebb and flow of water, both life-giving and deadly, symbolizes the people who have arrived or departed from South Africa through trade as cargo or as transient bodies belonging to no particular state. In 1652, European colonizers in South Africa
instituted systems of indentured labor and slavery. Dutch settlers trafficked people from the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Madagascar, East Africa,
and Angola, putting them to work on plantations and at sea ports. The Native peoples of South Africa became commodities to Dutch and British colonizers who used them as laborers and soldiers.
In Setswana, one of the official languages of South Africa, life is referred to as a “passage.” The Setswana word for life, botshelo, means “to cross over.” As such, all human beings are referred to as bafeti, or voyagers. As with any voyage, life has a beginning and an end.
Passage was commissioned by the South African Department of Arts and Culture for the 57th Venice Biennale.