Intervention of Interest
Evading output, temporal pressures and hasty conclusions
with MOMO Outskirts
In spite of entry to galleries being free, words like access, gatekeeping and elitism are still synonymous with the ecosystem. In this week’s ______Of Interest we consider MOMO Outskirts as an intervention addressing this positioning.
On 31 January 1994, hip hop cornerstone Wu-Tang Clan dropped the second single from their debut studio album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). A sign of the coming times, Cash Rules Everything Around Me speaks to today’s daily negotiations with capitalism. Everywhere and in everything, this phenomenon of money being the only substantial form of validation has also manifested in the contemporary art world. Perhaps one of the reasons why engagement is confused with ownership, this misconception also exists in the contemporary African art scene.
In the game for a while now, Monna Mokoena deflates the idea that the art world is elitist. “It’s never been. There’s always been questions about whether art is accessible or not and as people who have been in this space for a long time, we hope that with such an intervention, art can be perceived as a more human thing.”
It has been two decades since Gallery MOMO first opened its doors. The first black-owned gallery of its gravitas in South Africa, Gallery MOMO has in the last twenty years developed an artists list and curatorial approach focused on current and future takes on African Mastery. On the eve of their twentieth, toward the end of 2022, their approach’s expansion brought about MOMO Outskirts. Located in the Cradle Valley, about fifty-something minutes out of central Johannesburg, MOMO Outskirts programming centres around the non-commercial aspects of contemporary African art.
“We decided to open up the doors to a more engaged art crowd and the experience is centred around being here,” explains MOMO Outskirts’ co-director Nisha Merit. “We want to invite people to be in the moment, to take their time, to look closely and to have the conversations that the crazy city buzz doesn’t give us the opportunity to.”
To inaugurate the space, MOMO Outskirts presented The Hand of God. A seminal retrospective on the late Jackson Hlungwani, The Hand of God exhibited rarely seen works to demonstrate the artist’s mastery while contemplating the legacy his practice left us with. A long-term exhibition, The Hand of God was recently followed by Regarding Time: Visual Contemplations on Indexicals. A group exhibition, Regarding Time looks at the materiality embodied by artists spanning George Pemba, Gerard Sekoto, Johannes Phokela, Yinka Shonibare, Mary Sibande, Yinka Shonibare and Durant Sihlali.
Aware of the barriers that the linguistics of contemporary art bring to the table, the MOMO Outskirts intervention transcends exhibition. Active in their pursuit of building longer tables and shorter fences, the stronghold considers and embraces all cultural nodes including performance, music, food, writing and fashion as ways to welcome new and existing patrons into the space.
Evading output, temporal pressures and conclusions, the MOMO Outskirts journey embraces constant edits, altering encounters and non-linear developments. An invitation only to witness as the intervention grows and unfolds, its only requirement is for audiences to arrive and witness their efforts sincerely.