Mohau Modisakeng was born in Soweto in 1986. He completed his undergraduate degree at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town, in 2009. He lives and works between Johannesburg and Cape Town. He was just 8 years old when Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa. “I am a visual artist,” proclaims Mohau but he is very articulate about the context in which his work emerges. Large photographic prints and video are part of this show.
We are in the Midwestern U.S. and he is speaking at the Adam Aronson Fine Arts Center on the first Saturday in November 2016. Temperatures are moderate and turnout for this gallery talk is modest. The exhibition of Mohau Modisakeng is supported by Adrienne D. Davis, Alison and John Ferring, Patricia Smith-Thurman and the Des Lee Collaborative Vision at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, with assistance from a gallery in Cape Town.
Marilu Knode, the museum executive director, kicks off the discussion and opens up to those in attendance. Mohau confesses that he is nervous. He is a soft-spoken young man, but in spite of less than optimal acoustics in this remarkable space, he shares a bit about his inspiration. “My mother was a dreamer. She was a healer in our culture,” he offers, “I was able to travel to London and visit the Tate museum.” He added that he was able to meet Johannesburg, South Africa born artist Jane Alexander. The artist helped convinced Mohau that artists must overcome obstacles and difficulties to be successful.
Afterwords, Mohau relaxed on a bench near Judith Shea’s Heartland Garden near the estate house at Laumeier Sculpture Park, chatting with a new friend (a contemporary woman of color) who wanted to know more about what it was like to study in an Eurocentric environment such as the university in Cape Town, Maybe she also wanted to know what the artist thought about living in a place in time in after Apartheid (that system of racial discrimination that was in place from 1948-1994 in South Africa).
This is a beautiful day to also view the installation of local artists Alison Ouellette-Kirby and Noah Kirby. The piece, Arena, made possible by Nancy and Ken Kranzberg, is on view adjacent to the South Lawn in the park.