Media release

Public opening of Past Disquiet, guest curated by curator-writers Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti

Public opening of Seismography of Struggle: Towards a Global History of Critical and Cultural Journals, guest curated by art historian Zahia Rahmani

Symposium titled The Poetics and Politics of Archival Practice

Launch of Zeitz MOCAA’s latest publication, Radical Solidarity: A Reader

(Cape Town, Friday, 28 July 2023): Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) proudly announces the opening of two new exhibitions titled Past Disquiet and Seismography of Struggle: Towards a Global History of Critical and Cultural Journals, on Thursday, 3 August 2023. Ambassador Barbara Masekela, South African poet, educator, and activist, will be speaking at the public opening. Accompanying the opening, is a Symposium titled The Poetics and Politics of Archival Practice, and book launch of Radical Solidarity: A Reader, on Saturday, 5 August. Speaking at the launch will be Justice Albie Sachs, South African lawyer, activist, writer, and former judge appointed by Nelson Mandela to the first Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Past Disquiet is a documentary and archival exhibition based on research conducted by Lebanese curator-writers duo, and long-time collaborators, Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti. For over a decade, they explored four seed collections of art that were intended to be “museums in solidarity” or “museums in exile”, that incarnated the engagement of artists with a particular political cause. It is an exhibition of stories told with documents, photographs, pamphlets, press clippings, posters, interviews, and videos.

The research began as the two curators explored how the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, which took place in Beirut (Lebanon) in 1978, was meant to become the nucleus for a museum in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle. Despite the size and scope of the exhibition, yet unprecedented for the region, it seems to have been totally forgotten. The story of
that museum was closely connected to other similar collections and initiatives, namely, the International Museum of The Resistance ‘Salvador Allende’, the Artists Contre/Against Apartheid, and Art for the People of Nicaragua.

Central to our context, the curators expanded their research into Art Against Apartheid, conceived in 1978 by French artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest and the late Spanish painter Antonio Saura. This was a travelling exhibition of works by internationally recognised artists produced to raise awareness of the unjust regime of the National Party. In 1996, the collection made a homecoming, with the artworks exhibited in Parliament in Cape Town, taking the place of colonial portraits and landscapes to symbolise a new dawning of democracy in the nation, and now housed in the University of the Western Cape Robben Island Mayibuye Archives.

This latest incarnation of Past Disquiet follows in the footsteps of earlier iterations at institutions in Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Santiago de Chile, and Beirut. Presenting new research developed at Zeitz MOCAA in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape’s Centre for Humanities Research and Mayibuye Archives, the Robben Island Museum, Parliament of South Africa, and anti-apartheid cultural collectives and figures from the 1980s, Past Disquiet extends the museum’s art historical agenda. It considers exhibition histories and cultural networks in the
Global South while connecting to the artistic, intellectual, and political issues of our contemporary moment.

The exhibition and visual identity are designed by Studio Safar, a design agency and publisher established in Beirut (2012) and in Montreal (2020).

Past Disquiet is one of the most significant contributions of our time to a more representative art history – and reminds us that artists and artworks are central to liberation, and essential participants for facilitating change in an unjust world. The stories brought to life in this extraordinary document, have not been merely forgotten, but have been actively erased or neglected. It is our mission to write these back into the record – not only for the history of the continent, but into a narrative of a world that has a connected and entangled present and future, ” says Koyo Kouoh, Executive Director and Chief Curator of Zeitz MOCAA.

The exhibition is presented in parallel with the multi-media installation and database, Seismography of Struggle: Towards a Global History of Critical and Cultural Journals, an itinerant exhibition compiled and curated by French-Algerian art historian Zahia Rahmani. Seismography of Struggle is an inventory of critical and cultural journals from the non-European world that understands print media and publishing as fundamental tools of struggle for anti-colonial, abolitionist, and liberatory movements in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Rahmani’s project evinces the scope and diversity of publishing across the world from the late 18th century until 1989, a period bookended by the historic quakes that were the Haitian Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The exhibition is presented as a sound and image installation with multi-channel projections displaying journal covers, inside pages, and images of protagonists, accompanied by a manifesto of quotes from revolutionary editors and a soundscape by French composer Jean-Jacques Palix. Furthermore, a browsable database of journals is available at https://sismo.inha.fr/. This approach attests to the incredible and inspiring volume of printed material produced as part of cultural and political struggles worldwide and highlights the diverse aesthetic strategies of revolutionary publishers.

Kouoh impresses that, “Seismography of Struggle brings to life the power of publishing and its revolutionary impact in social movements. Zahia’s dedication in researching and bringing together a publicly accessible database with its particular geographical and cultural focus is legendary, and at its core fundamentally political. Whilst leaning into the aesthetics of the archival object’s seductiveness, the meditative nature of the installation also allows for new connections to be made between these historic documents.”

Together, these two exhibitions speak to rich and radical histories of art and culture as integral to political struggles for democracy, equality, and sovereignty. These themes and values will be explored in the one-day Symposium: The Poetics and Politics of Archival Practice with keynote lectures from the curators of Seismography of Struggle and Past Disquiet alongside distinguished guests from the field of art, activism, and academia. Included in the symposium is a roundtable discussion on poetic and political approaches to the archive where attendees will have the opportunity to not only engage with the three curators, but also with notable authors, historians, and scholars.

The museum will be launching Radical Solidarity: A Reader which captures the profound ideas and projects of radical thinkers, artists, and activists committed to fostering the arts from Africa and its diaspora. The publication emerges from the proceedings of the Radical Solidarity Summit, a week-long online gathering hosted by Zeitz MOCAA in September 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the intention to not only address the urgent issues of the moment, but to explore the alternative futures, and possibilities that can be forged in the cultural field
through acts of radical solidarity.

Edited by Tandazani Dhlakama, Alexandra Dodd, Tammy Langtry, and Storm Janse van Rensburg, the publication retains the conversational, intimate nature of the online gathering, whilst honouring the urgency and complexity of its subject matter. Contributors include blaxTARLINES KUMASI, Diana Campbell Betancourt, Nadia Davids, Tandazani Dhlakama, Abdul Dube, Frieda Ekotto, Sakhisiswe Gcina, Haroon Gunn-Salie, Storm Janse van Rensburg, Koyo Kouoh, Awa Konaté, Tammy Langtry, Mpho Matsipa, Achille Mbembe, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Rémy Ngamije, Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Emeka Okereke, Bukola Oyebode, Marie Helene Pereira, Edgar Pieterse, Zahia Rahmani, ruangrupa, Albie Sachs, Rasha Salti, Phokeng Setai, Tau Tavengwa, and Françoise Vergès.

Kouoh stated of the summit and subsequent reader, “Many associate the term ‘radical’ with extreme reforms that shift the fundamental nature of things, while the word ‘solidarity’ brings to
mind fellowship, unity and shared convictions amongst people. However, radicality does not always need to be loud and extreme. The silent, sotto and steady defiance of any given state of
affairs can be just as radical as the loudest protest.”

Designed by Yvon Langué and Soukaina Aboulaoula of the design duo Untitled, this Reader gives collective voice to the historical and philosophical root system of Zeitz MOCAA as a contemporary pan- and diasporic African art institution at the leading edge of global contemporary art practice and discourse.

Zeitz MOCAA’s curatorial and educational programming is generously supported by Gucci and the Mellon Foundation. Seismography of Struggle is furthermore supported by the French
Institute of South Africa (IFAS).


Issued by the Communications Department of Zeitz MOCAA. Please find the media toolkit including biographies, imagery, and image credits here. For media enquiries, or to schedule interviews, please contact Seni Guwa at seni.guwa@zeitzmocaa.museum. A media preview will take place on Thursday, 3 August, 9 am – 11 am at the museum, with the curators, ahead of the public opening in the evening.


About Zeitz MOCAA

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) is a public not-for-profit institution that collects, preserves, researches and exhibits contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora; conceives and hosts international exhibitions; develops supporting educational, discursive and enrichment programmes; encourages intercultural understanding; and strives towards access for all. The museum’s galleries feature rotating temporary exhibitions with a dedicated space for the permanent collection. The institution also includes the Centre for Art Education, the Centre for the Moving Image and The Atelier, a museum residency programme for artists living and working in Cape Town. Zeitz MOCAA is situated at the Silo District, South Arm Road, V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa, and is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm. zeitzmocaa.museum.

About Gucci

Founded in Florence, Italy, in 1921, Gucci is one of the world’s leading luxury brands, led by President and CEO Marco Bizzarri and Creative Director Alessandro Michele. Following the House’s centenary, Gucci forges ahead into the next hundred years, continuing to redefine luxury while celebrating the creativity, craftsmanship and innovation at the core of its Values. Gucci is part of the global luxury group, Kering, which manages the development of a series of renowned Houses in fashion, leather goods, jewellery and watches. Discover more about Gucci at gucci.com.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the United States’ largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.