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THE SOUL EXPANDING OCEAN #3: Dineo Seshee Bopape

Ocean! What if no change is your desperate mission?  — 

  • Admission

    Free of charge

  • Opening date

  • Location

    Ocean Space


    Chus Martínez

TBA21–Academy presents a solo exhibition dedicated to the artist Dineo Seshee Bopape at Ocean Space. The exhibition is part of a two-year curatorial cycle entitled The Soul Expanding Ocean by Ocean Space’s 2021 and 2022 curator Chus Martínez.

For her solo presentation at Ocean Space, Bopape works with various elements and mediums including video, sound, dreams and clay. The commission is informed by a research residency the artist is currently participating in with Alligator Head Foundation, a Jamaican-based marine conservation foundation initiated by TBA21–Academy; managing the East Portland Fish Sanctuary and focusing on the intersection of science, art and community.

Bopape’s approach merges historical inquiry, traditional wisdom, a sense of illusion, imagination and hope in order to stage the ‘post-colonial’ agency of the Ocean as a timeless being. The commission is a further step in her practice towards the marriage of the Earth and the memory of the Ocean. The semiotics of the slave ship embedded in the Ocean are conceived as an opening through a complex juxtaposition of artistic materials and language, an opportunity to enchant and unravel contemporary everyday life and aid towards its transformation.

Abstracted patterns of Ocean movement are reminiscent of stretch marks on a body marking a kind of elasticity, like rivers breaking ground, raising undulated scars that hawk to mountainous landscapes. One witnesses the possible stretching and iterations of the Ocean body, in memory, in space, through shifting rhythms. The waters on which enslaved people were transported across the Ocean are seen as open wounds, and the raindrops which would have fallen on those who drowned at sea, fall into this body of water to form an in between within a mother body. From these imaginaries the artist created thousands of drawings, constituting the basis of a digital animation.

Bopape was part of the second voyage to the Solomon Islands organised by TBA21–Academy with the exhibition curator and Leader of The Current II fellowship program, Chus Martínez. Her experience of the Ocean in the Solomon Islands opened immersive ways to form connections between this new sensorial experience, the ancestors, slavery routes, and a practice capable of touching the audience the same way the spirits of the Ocean touched her.

Dineo Seshee Bopape: Prep Sketches (Mawatle), 2019 - 2022, Chalk on paper, 23x31cm. “The Soul Expanding Ocean #3: Dineo Seshee Bopape” is commissioned and produced by TBA21–Academy.

‘Imagine a seascape of heavy rain, in the Solomon Islands. You were out swimming and all of a sudden you are showered in raindrops falling down, so dense, so powerful as you never experienced before. You go a little bit under the water to seek shelter. Funny, who would have told you that you could submerge in water to have a roof…! With your nose afloat, your eyes witness the millions of drops creating a pattern on the surface of the Ocean. Those patterns are beautiful and yet, you suddenly recall them as marks on the skin left by wounds. Millions of lives have been scarred, touched by weapons, have experienced unthinkable pain, have been thrown into the Ocean and died.’ - Chus Martínez


Dineo Seshee Bopape was born in 1981 CE (Gregorian calendar), 1974 in the Ethiopian calendar, the year of the golden rooster, on a Sunday. If she were Ghanaian, her name would be akosua/akos for short. During the same year of her birth, there were perhaps 22 recorded Atlantic Ocean hurricanes and 4 Indian Ocean cyclones close to Mozambique. Umkhonto We Sizwe performs numerous underground assaults against the apartheid state. Zaire is the premier producer of the world’s cobalt; In Chile, the Water Code is established, separating water ownership from land ownership; an International NGO Conference on Indigenous Populations and the Land is held in Geneva; Bob Marley dies; an annular solar eclipse is visible in the Pacific Ocean; USA and Japan are in the leading position in the seabed-mining industry, Thomas Sankara rides a bike to his first cabinet meeting; the Slave trade is officialy abolished in Mauritania; Machu Picchu is declared a heritage site; New Zealand recognised 16 rivers and lakes as “Outstanding” and protected them in perpetuity. Hurricane Katrina brings floods to the Caribbean. A Haiti-US Agreement allows the US Coast Guard to patrol the sea corridor between Haiti and Cuba. It is said that right whales born in that year are taller than right whales born since. Her paternal grandmother dies affected by dementia; Other concurrent events of the year of her birth, and of her lifetime, are perhaps too many to fully know; some things continued, some shifted, others ended, some began, some transformed. The world’s human population was then apparently at around 4.529 billion. Today she is one amongst 7 billion - occupying multiple adjectives.


Chus Martínez is head of the Art Institute at the FHNW Academy of Arts and Design in Basel, and in 2021-22, the Curator of Ocean Space, Venice, TBA21–Academy’s center for catalyzing ocean literacy, research, and advocacy through the arts. Previously, she led The Current II (2018–20), a project initiated by TBA21–Academy. The Current is the inspiration behind Art is Ocean, a series of seminars and conferences held at the Art Institute which examines the role of artists in the conception of a new experience of nature.