March 18, 2014 - MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main - The Divine Comedy
March 18, 2014

The Divine Comedy

Aïda Muluneh, “The 99 Series,” 2013. © Aïda Muluneh.

The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory Revisited by Contemporary African Artists
21 March–27 July 2014

Opening: Thursday, 20 March, 7pm

MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main
Domstraße 10
60311 Frankfurt
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm, 
Wednesday 10am–8pm

www.mmk-frankfurt.de

Paradise on the ground floor, purgatory in the middle and hell at the top: In The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main serves as a stage for Dante’s Divine Comedy on 4,500 square metres of exhibition space. The epos from the 14th centuryforms the foundation for the exhibition conceived by curator Simon Njami and realized in collaboration with the MMK. The presentation will travel subsequently to further venues worldwide.

The episodes Dante experiences range from paradigmatic depictions of human transgression in hell to repentance and recognition on the mountain of purgatory and, ultimately, salvation in paradise. Fifty participating artists from more than 20 African countries have embarked on their own journeys of the otherworld. Taking their own widely differing cultural and religious backgrounds as a starting point, the artists investigate individual thematic sequences of the Divine Comedy. Their main concern is with the universal deliberations in Dante’s work and how they relate to thematic issues of the present. Even if the show is, in a sense, a translation of the Divine Comedy into the language of the visual arts, it is not an attempt to create a contemporary illustrated version of its historical contents. It proceeds on the premise that Dante’s visions are applicable to many cultures and many religions.

In the wake of a number of Africa-related projects over the past years, it was important to inquire into the significance of African artists’ work not primarily in the post-colonial context, but above all with regard to their aesthetics. The focus is accordingly less on historical or political content than on art as an expressive means of transporting and communicating the unspoken.

Simon Njami (b. 1962) has organized numerous exhibitions of contemporary art, among them Africa Remix from 2004 to 2007, and curated the African pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2007 and the FNB Joburg Art Fair 2008 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was a co-founder and chief editor of Revue Noire, and artistic director of the “Bamako Photography Biennial” for ten years, and has published numerous writings on art. 

Artists: Jane Alexander (b. 1959, Johannesburg, South Africa), Ghada Amer (b. 1963, Cairo), Joël Andrianomearisoa (b. 1977 Antananarivo, Madagascar), Kader Attia (b. 1970, Dugny/Seine-Saint-Denis, France), Sammy Baloji (b. 1978, Lubumbashi, Congo), Berry Bickle (b. 1959, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe), Bili Bidjocka (b. 1962, Douala, Cameroon), Wim Botha (b. 1974, Pretoria, South Africa), Zoulikha Bouabdellah (b. 1977, Moscow), Mohamed Bourouissa (b. 1978, Blida, Algeria), Nabil Boutros (b. 1954, Cairo), Edson Chagas (b. 1977, Luanda, Angola), Loulou Cherinet (b. 1970, Gothenburg, Sweden), Lawrence Chikwa (b. 1973 Lusaka, Zambia), Kudzanai Chiurai (b. 1981 Harare, Zimbabwe), Dimitri Fagbohoun (b. 1972 Cotonou, Benin), Franck Abd-Bakar Fanny (b. 1971 Abidjan, Ivory Coast), Jellel Gasteli (b. 1958, Tunis, Tunisia), Pélagie Gbaguidi (b. 1965, Dakar, Senegal), Kendell Geers (b. 1968, Johannesburg, South Africa), Frances Goodman (b. 1975, Johannesburg, South Africa), Nicholas Hlobo (b. 1975, Cape Town, South Africa), Mouna Karray (b. 1970, Sfax, Tunisia), Amal Kenawy (1974–2012 Cairo), Majida Khattari (b. 1966, Erfoud, Morocco), Kiluanji Kia Henda (b. 1979, Luanda, Angola), Jems Koko Bi (b. 1966, Sifra, Ivory Coast), Abdoulaye Konaté (b. 1953, Diré, Mali), Nicène Kossentini (b. 1976, Sfax, Tunisia), Ndary Lo (b. 1961, Tivaouane, Senegal), Ato Malinda (b. 1981, Nairobi, Kenya), Pascale Marthine Tayou (b. 1967, Yaoundé, Cameroon), Julie Mehretu (b. 1970, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), Myriam Mihindou (b. 1964, Libreville, Gabon), Nandipha Mntambo (b. 1982, Mbabane, Swasiland), Aïda Muluneh (b. 1974, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), Hassan Musa (b. 1951, El-Nuhud, Sudan), Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi, Kenya), Mwangi Hutter (b. 1975, Nairobi, Kenya and b. 1975 Ludwigshafen, Germany), Youssef Nabil (b. 1972, Cairo), Lamia Naji (b. 1966, Casablanca, Morocco), Moataz Nasr (b. 1961, Cairo), Cheikh Niass (b. 1966, Dakar, Senegal), Maurice Pefura (b. 1967, Paris), Zineb Sedira (b. 1963, Paris), Yinka Shonibare (b. 1962, London), Guy Tillim (b. 1962, Johannesburg, South Africa), Andrew Tshabangu (b. 1966, Johannesburg, South Africa), Minnette Vári (b. 1968, Pretoria, South Africa), Dominique Zinkpè (b. 1969, Cotonou, Benin) 


Press conference: Thursday, 20 March, 11am
With Dr. Susanne Gaensheimer (Director, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst), Hortensia Völckers (Executive Board / Artistic Director of Kulturstiftung des Bundes), Dr. Helmut Müller (Director, Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain and Simon Njami (Curator)

The catalog, edited by Susanne Gaensheimer and Simon Njami and published by the Kerber Verlag, is available in the museum shop and at bookshops. 

MMK Talks – The artists
On the occassion of the exhibition, the MMK will continue its series of conversations MMK Talks with three outstanding artists from among the show’s participants. They will be talking to discussion partners of their choice.

26 March, 7pm
Wangechi Mutu in conversation with Bisi Silva

4 April, 7pm
Kader Attia in conversation with Koyo Kouoh

14 May, 7pm
Julie Mehretu

The talks will be conducted in English.

Admission free

In fall 2014, further MMK Talks with Andrea Büttner, Dayanita Singh et al.


The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive series of events. For more information, please visit our website

The exhibition is supported by Kulturstiftung des Bundes and funded by Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain, Freunde des MMK, Institut Français, ifa Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen and Goethe Institut.

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