Dineo Seshee Bopape: Ile aye, moya, là, ndokh…harmonic conversions…mm

Institute for Contemporary Art, Richmond, United States
24 Sep 2021 - 19 Dec 2021

Dineo Seshee Bopape, clay animation sketch. Courtesy of the artist.

Dineo Seshee Bopape, clay animation sketch. Courtesy of the artist.

Ile aye, moya, là, ndokh…harmonic conversions…mm is a solo exhibition by Dineo Seshee Bopape (b. 1981, Polokwane, South Africa). The show’s title calls to the elements: earth, wind, fire, and water…summoned in various languages from West and Southern Africa, and features new works spanning video, sculpture, installation, and animation.

This exhibition pays homage to those who were taken, those who struggled, those who fled, and those who still seek sanctuary in the liminal spaces between captivity and an illegal freedom.

Images, objects, and sounds made from soil and water resonate throughout this gallery. They point to cities, ports, and waterways that played important roles in the enslavement of people. By transforming soil samples from Virginia, Louisiana, Senegal, Ghana, and South Africa into material for sculpture and video, Bopape highlights the connectedness of the disparate places—historically and materially. She forges harmonic conversations with ancestral pasts, presences, and futures.

This exhibition considers the enslaved, captors, facilitators, collaborators and enslavers

It considers connections and dis-con-nections…branches, breeches, and horizons

Waterways, way-ward paths through forests…passages…the middle passage…

The African burial ground in Richmond, days and days on water…landings…dreams and navigation…memory and willful-amnesia…

It considers what might the waters remember…and the earth…

It considers the weather and journeys…

Each of the transatlantic sites Bopape explored for this exhibition expose crimes of history. The plantations, ports, and trading posts where human life was sold and consumed are still evident in our built environments today. These places carry a living memory—in their visible construction, in the wealth created by forced labor, and in festering social wounds that are often masked.

Yet, Bopape goes beyond the narrative of enslavement to explore the many ways people escaped to find freedom through running, through spirituality, through community, and through creativity.

This exhibition considers our survival: a spiritual negotiation with our ancestors, with the land on which we live, the elements that compose our world… and something(s) else…

And when they called home, what did they say?

Ile aye, moya, là, ndokh….


*Il aye, earth, (Yoruba, West Africa)

Moya, wind, (Nguni/Sepedi, South Africa)

Là, fire, (Ga,Ghana)

Ndokh, water, (Wolof, Senegal)


– Dineo Seshee Bopape


Dineo Seshee Bopape: Ile aye, moya, là, ndokh…harmonic conversions…mm is curated by Amber Esseiva, Curator at the ICA at VCU.




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