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22 May, 2020

Artist Spotlight: Mohau Modisakeng

The Silo Hotel

While many are stuck at home we wanted to share the stories of a few incredible young African artists showcased at The Silo Hotel. As many independent artists and other creatives suffer the economic effects of Covid-19 we thought it would be a good opportunity to show some appreciation for their work and all that they bring to our guest experience. As Liz Biden is quick to explain, “art brings a space to life”.

The Silo Hotel has over 300 pieces of contemporary African art and provides a wonderful showcase for this young talent and an opportunity for our guests to get to know some of the amazing creativity found in Africa. The Biden family have carefully curated the collection in collaboration with a number of local art galleries. The intention is that it should be in-keeping with that of Zeitz MOCAA below.

Born in Soweto in 1986 during the apartheid era, Mohau Modisakeng is no stranger to violence, devastation and loss. At a young age his older brother, Sthembiso, was killed by an outburst of bullets near their family home in Soweto. At the time, the Zulu settlement in which they lived was tainted by the unrest between various tribes affiliated to rival black parties and the on-going presence of police brutality.

Mohu Modisakeng turned to art to relieve his emotional tensions. Drawing allowed him to deal with his feelings and experience dimensions of himself that were otherwise buried and voiceless. Today, art continues to be his lifelong passion and profession. Through film, large-scale photographic prints, installations and performances, his work explores the influence of South Africa’s violent history on today’s society. Mohau uses materials, metaphors and the black body as tools to uncover the truth behind our newly formed perceptions and understanding of our cultural, political, and social roles as people living in post-colonial Africa and in particular post-apartheid South Africa.

He completed his bachelor’s degree from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2009, and later graduated with his Masters in 2012 from the same institute. Despite his young age, Mohau’s work has exhibited in top galleries such as VOLTA New York (2013) and Saatchi Gallery, London (2012). South African history remains entrenched in his work, the tainted past and its effects supplying themes of segregation, oppression, and violence. Despite the political undertones in many of his pieces, Mohau works from a very personal place and his art is often symbolic.

The images shown in the entrance lobby of The Silo Hotel are still images from a live performance. His images depict events, with some being re-enactments of powerful moments in history, thoughts, or his own dream states.

The images portray a calling to war made particularly interesting by the paradox provided by the dove – a symbol of peace. Mohau uses charcoal and various other methods to make himself darker to comment on his own social identity and perhaps in reference to the mines in Johannesburg where he grew up. He also uses his own image to represent the black African subject often portrayed on the news and in popular culture to complicate the hegemonic notions of representation, confronting generalised representations of the ‘black subject’ by personalising the political undertones of his work.

His work is included in many public collections including the Johannesburg Art GalleryIZIKO South African National Gallery and Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA).

Follow The Silo Hotel’s Instagram account to see our next Artist Spotlight! 

Images courtesy Mohau Modisakeng, the WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery and the Tyburn gallery.

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