The Divine Comedy

New take by contemporary African artists

"A combination of new commissions and recently produced works of art come together in this first exhibition to demonstrate the ongoing global relevance of the themes addressed in Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem, The Divine Comedy. This dramatic installation, exhibited in the entrance pavilion and on all three subfloors of the museum, showcases the height of artistic production today. Forty of the best known and emerging artists from 18 African nations and the African diaspora working in media as diverse as video projection, installation, painting, sculpture, textiles, printmaking, photography, and collage explore diverse issues of politics, heritage, history, identity, faith, and form. In so doing, they reveal that one person’s vision of heaven, purgatory, or hell might not match another’s." - Smithsonian


Dark and powerful art pieces that evoke all feelings of a journey from hell, through purgatory to heaven. The exhibition is laid-out out in several floors, with hell at the basement, in the most remote dark area of the gallery. A video with an angel guides you through other rooms leading you to stairs as you pass through purgatory. You ascend the gallery and peaks of light can be seen, which arrives at the top floor in a white room. The last hall is light, but the journey weighs heavily, and heaven is still a struggle. Looking back down, you can see the layers, a reminder of the traps still present, as the last two videos pay homage to consuming culture we encounter today. The pieces I included below are the ones that I found most impactful, and that resonated on my mind throughout the exhibit.



Wim Botha - "Prism 10 (Dead Laocoön)" 2013






















Julie Mehretu - "Fragment" 2009


Aida Muluneh - "The 99 Series" 2013


Kudzanai Chiurai - "Iyeza" 2011 - still frame









Berry Bickle - "Beatrice interrogating desire" - still frame

Is it a warning?



"Then it was clear to me how everywhere
In heaven is paradise, and yet the grace
Of highest good May differ in measure"
Book iii, canto iii, lines 87-89













Myriam Mihindou - "La Robe Envolée"
Frames from Vimeo video - 


"A woman, the Gabonese artist Myriam Mihindou, faces in this artistic video the changing of her skin metaphorically speaking in a process that will help her evolve from a larva to a butterfly and recover her lost power to dress and undress, and in that way recover her lost power of self"




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Rosa Natasha Zlotkovsky | webmaster.ingeniouslife@gmail.com | Washington, DC