Projects

Dineo Seshee Bopape

Jul 1–Oct 9, 2023

MoMA

Dineo Seshee Bopape. Still from Lerato laka le a phela le a phela le a phela / My love is alive is alive is alive. 2022. Soil, limestone, carpets, bench, and three-channel video installation (color, eight-channel sound, 17 min. loop), dimensions variable. Installation view, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2022. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy and co-produced with Pirelli HangarBicocca. Photo: Agostino Osio. Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/Hamburg
  • MoMA, Floor 1, 1 North

What do our oceans remember? The shifting of the continents? Migrating schools of fish and mammals? The movement of ships transporting enslaved peoples across the Atlantic? The breath of those who sought freedom? These questions animate Dineo Seshee Bopape’s multichannel sound and video installation 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 brings together video, sound, and natural materials in works that consider how the social, political, and spiritual histories of the African diaspora inhabit the physical world around us.

Lerato laka le a phela pays homage to the 12 million enslaved people who crossed the Atlantic—those who survived and those who fled into the waters to seek sanctuary. Across three screens, the artist is seen submerging her hands and placing fruit, flowers, and various libations in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Jamaica. Audio elements are incorporated through Bopape’s rhythmic drumming of the water and her singing in her mother tongue, Sepedi. The work was inspired by the whip-lacerated back of an African American man known only as Peter (formerly misnamed Gordon), who escaped American slavery in the 18th century and whose story of resilience of spirit continues to be told through a widely circulated photograph.

Projected on a limestone surface, the videos are surrounded by a ring of rocks. A wash of soil has been applied to the gallery walls. Bringing together soil, rock, clay, and water, the work allows multiple timelines—the geological, the historical, and the personal—to converge in the present. For Bopape, this connection to the physical world is an exploration of collective memory: “It’s an act of spiritual and a political rebellion to remember—to not forget what one is being asked to forget.”

The artist gratefully acknowledges her luminous ancestors and ancestors of all lands and waters who support the work including Bob Marley and Lucky Dube. She also acknowledges Judith Gordon, Alice French, Joy McMillian, Biata Roytbund and Powerhouse Arts, Riverine Ranch, 11th Street Workshop, Amber Essevia, Andrée Sfeir-Semler, Ana Siler, Markus Reymann, Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, Tlokwe Sehume, Rachael Barrett, Nickie Meyers, and Starasea Camara.

Lerato laka le a phela le a phela le a phela/My love is alive, is alive, is alive (2022) is commissioned by TBA21–Academy and co-produced with Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan.

Organized by Martha Joseph, The Phyllis Ann and Walter Borten Assistant Curator of Media and Performance, Department of Media and Performance.

  • This exhibition is part of The Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series.
  • The Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series is made possible in part by the Elaine Dannheisser Foundation and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.

    Additional support is provided by the Wallis Annenberg Director’s Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art.

    Artist

    Installation images

    How we identified these works

    In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

    If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].

    Licensing

    If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

    MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research/circulating-film.

    If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].

    Feedback

    This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].