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THE SOUL EXPANDING OCEAN #3: Dineo Seshee Bopape

Dineo Seshee Bopape  — 

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.

Dineo Seshee Bopape’s work begins with a journey to the Solomon Islands, and from there she moves on to plantations on the Mississippi, to Jamaica, and then back home to South Africa. Travel becomes a language that allows timelines to converge and intersect in the space of waters, a revisit to ‘dogs that are not asleep’. Bopape’s approach merges magical inquiry, historical curiosity, traditional wisdom, a sense of/for illusions, imagination and hope in order to create an operation on the post-post-colonial agency in conversation with the Ocean (being).

The commission is a further step in her practice towards the marriage of the earth and the memory of the Ocean. The rocks Bopape uses in her practice are teaching us to understand that ancient, mythical times are not of the past, since the times of oppression and the colonial are still not of the past, destruction and exploitation of resources are still not of the past. The semiotics of the ‘ghost’ 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 de/re-thread) contemporaneous life, and aid towards its tender transformation. For Bopape, the unseen – as in the spirits and energies moving actions and connecting us with the environment around us – is central to her video and augmented reality works activating a multifarious presence.

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. Bopape’s 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. The commission is also informed by a research residency at 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.

Exhibition views of “The Soul Expanding Ocean #3: Dineo Seshee Bopape”, Ocean Space, Venice, 2022. Commissioned and produced by TBA21–Academy.
© Matteo De Fina

‘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: Film still, 2021 - 2022. “The Soul Expanding Ocean #3: Dineo Seshee Bopape” is commissioned and produced by TBA21–Academy.


Dineo Seshee Bopape. Photo: Matteo De Fina

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.


Pirelli Hangar Bicocca is a non-profit foundation for contemporary art established in 2004 in Milan. Covering about 15,000 square meters of a former industrial plant, it is one of the largest exhibition spaces in Europe. It presents major solo shows by international and Italian artists conceived for this unique architecture. Since 2012, Pirelli HangarBicocca’s Artistic Director is Vicente Todolí and the foundation has presented solo shows by Ragnar Kjartansson, Dieter and Björn Roth, Micol Assaël, Cildo Meireles, João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, Joan Jonas, Céline Condorelli, Juan Muñoz, Damián Ortega, Philippe Parreno, Petrit Halilaj, Carsten Höller, Kishio Suga, Laure Prouvost, Miroslaw Balka, Rosa Barba, Lucio Fontana, Eva Kot’átková, Matt Mullican, Leonor Antunes, Mario Merz, Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Sheela Gowda, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Cerith Wyn Evans, Trisha Baga, Chen Zhen, Neïl Beloufa, and Maurizio Cattelan. The exhibition program of 2022 includes Anicka Yi, Steve McQueen, Bruce Nauman, and Dineo Seshee Bopape.

Each exhibition is accompanied by a monograph on the artist and a public program of events. Alongside the temporary shows, Pirelli HangarBicocca hosts two permanent installations: Anselm Kiefer’s renowned site-specific work, The Seven Heavenly Palaces 2004-2015, and Fausto Melotti’s imposing sculpture La Sequenza (1981).