Image of Passage three-channel video of three boats in dark water with three characters inside of the three different boats.


Kemper Family Foundations Balcony

The Spencer's Integrated Arts Research Initiative presents the installation of Passage by Mohau Modisakeng. Passage is a three-channel video installation that meditates on slavery's dismemberment of African identity and its enduring erasure of personal histories. Each channel depicts an individual character framed by a boat that sinks and disappears into the water over the course of the projection. The work was commissioned by the South African Department of Arts and Culture on the occasion of the 57th Venice Biennale.

In Passage, the ebb and flow of water, as both life giving and deadly, symbolizes the many who have arrived or departed from South Africa in trade, as cargo or as transient bodies belonging to no particular state. In South Africa, systems of indentured labor and slavery were instituted by the Cape Colony in 1652 to meet the growing demand for labor. Dutch settlers imported people from the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Madagascar, East Africa and Angola, putting them to work on plantations and at ports. South Africa became a jostling ground between the Dutch and British, its Native people rendered as mere commodities moving through the establishment of an industrialized mining economy, as laborers and as soldiers in the Anglo Boer and world wars.

In Setswana the experience of 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 (‘voyagers’), a word that points to the fact that the experience of life is transient; it has a beginning and an end, as with any voyage.

This exhibition is supported by KU Student Senate and the Linda Inman Bailey Exhibition Fund.