“Passage,” a three channel video installation by Mohau Modisakeng, on view at the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The exhibition will be on display in the Artist Project Space of the JSMA from May 11 to August 9, 2019.


EUGENE, Ore. -- (May 9, 2019) – “Passage,” a three channel video installation by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng, will be on view at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus from May 11 to August 9, 2019. Originally presented at the 2017 Venice Biennale, “Passage” offers a meditation on slavery’s dismemberment of African identity and its enduring erasure of personal histories.  


Modisakeng will present an artist talk on Friday, May 24, at 5:30 p.m. The Hartz FUNd for Contemporary Art and UO Division of Equity and Inclusion are sponsoring his visit.


In each of the artwork’s three projections, we are confronted with a character – a woman with a hawk perched on her arm, a young man in a Trilby hat, and a woman wrapped in a Basotho blanket. The arched shape of the boat frames each passenger with their heads pointed toward the prow; each travels with a single possession. As the passengers lie motionless on their backs looking up at the sky, they perform a series of actions that move between gestures of struggle and resignation. A pool of water slowly forms beneath their bodies. The rising water gradually floods the well of the boat, eventually leaving the passengers submerged while the boat slowly sinks and eventually disappears.


In Setswana, the experience of life is referred to as a “passage.” The Setswana word for life, botshelo, means “to cross over,” and people are bafeti (voyagers), a recognition that the experience of life is transient: it has a beginning and an end, as with any voyage.


“Richard Herskowitz (JSMA’s curator of media arts) and I experienced ‘Passage’ at the 2017 Venice Biennale. We liked it so much, we stayed and watched it a few times,” says Jill Hartz, JSMA Executive Director.  “We were thrilled to be able to acquire the work thanks to the Hartz FUNd for Contemporary Art.   This is one of the most powerful and yet beautiful works we have seen.  As contemporary curators, we’ve seen a lot of work that addresses slavery, much of that focused on its impact on American history and culture, but Modisakeng takes us back to Africa and the impact on African identities.” 


Modisakeng says his “work doesn’t start off with an attempt to portray violence, but it becomes mesmerizing because although we might recognize history as our past, the body is indifferent to social changes, so it remembers.


Modisakeng was born in Soweto in 1986 and lives and works between Johannesburg and Cape Town. His work ranges from media installations to photography to performance.  He completed his undergraduate degree at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town, in 2009. His work engages race, the militarization of society and the deep divides of post-apartheid South Africa and the post-colonial continent. He interrogates the collective narratives that inform our experience of the world, in particular those that evoke the black body as a site of fragmentation and distortion. He was awarded the Sasol New Signatures Award for 2011 and has shown his work in New York, London, and New Cape Town, among many international locations. His works range from video installation to photography to performance.  Modisakeng is represented by the Ron Mandos Gallery in Amsterdam.


About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, Europe, and the Americas as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is one of seven museums—and the only academic art museum-- in Oregon accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.


The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.


Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942,


Links: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,