The Africa Center, New York, United States 30 Jan 2020 - 23 Aug 2020
Ezra Wube, "Project Junction" (detail), 2020, stop motion animation. Courtesy of the artist.
The Africa Center presents Project Junction, a newly commissioned installation by Brooklyn-based artist Ezra Wube. In this mixed media, site-specific project, Wube explores food as an expression of collective identity in its ever-evolving state. The installation incorporates animation, painting, prints and objects.
Wube’s creative process involved visiting Teranga at The Africa Center, as well as other African restaurants within walking distance of the Center including Cross Culture Kitchen, Le Baobab Gouygui, La Savane, Safari, and Zoma. Wube researched ingredients of dishes on the restaurant menus and took note of the décor and ambience of each location.
Wube’s stop motion animations use the ingredients of each dish to reflect his discoveries about their native origins, symbolism, historical and cultural associations, related folklore and beliefs. The line drawings unfurling throughout the space hint at these figurative connections, while tracing stories of the ingredients’ historical cultivation and global dispersion. The objects displayed within the installation recreate those found on the walls of the local restaurants, and reference how African cultures and communities across America construct symbolic universes to reflect on their experiences of diaspora and home.
The installation is accompanied by a futuristic takeout menu that viewers are invited to take with them. The menu is based on Wube’s conversations with restaurant proprietors about dishes they imagine will continue to exist in the year 3020 A.D.
For Wube, culinary tradition is a lens for exploring transformations in the relationship between Africa and America through the everyday lives of people and their food. Wube says: “Through these layers of connected time and space—the past, the present and the future, the local with the global—I aim to highlight the global assemblage and continuous rejustification of African identities.”
Uzodinma Iweala, CEO of The Africa Center, says: “The intersection between visual culture and food is a rich and underexplored area, particularly as it relates to African cuisines and culinary culture. We were thrilled when Ezra accepted this commission to delve into these themes through an immersive installation. Wube’s work invites us to trace the journeys of distinctively African ingredients and the local restaurants that serve them, transporting us through layers of time and space, into our contemporary dining experience and our imaginations.”
Ezra Wube (b. 1980, Ethiopia) is a mixed media artist based in Brooklyn, NY. His work references the notion of past and present, the constant changing of place, and the dialogical tensions between “here” and “there”. His exhibitions include the 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil, Brazil; The 2nd edition of the Biennale d’Architecture d’Orléans, France; “Gwangju Biennale”, Gwangju, South Korea; Museum of the Moving Image, Queens, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; “Dak’Art Biennale”, Dakar, Senegal and Times Square Arts Midnight Moment, NY. His residencies and awards include Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY; Work Space, LMCC Residency Program, New York, NY; Open Sessions Program, The Drawing Center, New York, NY; Rema Hort Mann Foundation; the Triangle Arts Association Residency, Brooklyn, NY and The Substation Artist Residency Program, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Since 2015 Ezra organizes Addis Video Art Festival, a platform for innovative international video art in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.