Zak Ové’s latest sculpture, “The Mothership Connection,” has landed at Frieze Sculpture in London. The is a nine-meter-tall, pulsing blaze of color and light has been the talk of the upcoming show by major headlines. It is Ové’s largest work to date and is inspired by his Trinidadian heritage and his interest in Afrofuturism.
The sculpture is made up of 24 stacked pieces, each of which references a different aspect of Black history and culture. For example, one tier of yellow-lit arched windows recalls Washington’s Capitol, while another section alludes to the Djenné mud mosque in Mali. The apex is modeled on the Mende helmet mask worn by female healers in Sierra Leone, “to represent a mother.”
The work speaks to the African diaspora’s historic involvement, whether as enslaved people or indentured laborers, in the creation of some of the defining architecture of the United States. Ové felt that in recognizing their contribution in the realization of landmarks of the US, this was another important way for people to acknowledge the multi-racial interlacing of histories that make a modern day society.
Ové stresses that revealing and heralding the histories and skills of those that were rendered invisible is an important part of re-writing an inclusive history. For when important facts remain hidden, the benefit of that learning is lost to those in the present who are unable to acknowledge their place within that society. It is this loss of history and placement that has a direct damaging impact on the ancestors of those who worked to build a future for them.
For Ové, the sculpture aims to connect these various strands of influence into bearing within the sculpture, in order to re-examine these complex histories and redress the historical dialogue regarding the construct of Western society. The Totem aims to make visible the ‘black hands’ that built these architectural achievements, and to speak about their crucial involvement in the creation of the present day.
Pulsating lights and music make the sculpture “breathe”, while stainless steel, fibreglass and resin “give old-world traditions a new language”. He illustrates this idea by speaking about steel-pan music, born after African drums were banned by British colonial powers in Trinidad lest drummers inspire the enslaved to revolt. “There was colonial collusion to get rid of histories, memories. But with the development of the oil industry, the oil drum could be tuned to create the full orchestral scale. That’s an Afrofuturist moment: take a banned tradition and put in new-wave materials to shape things that would otherwise be extinct.” Read more Here.
Frieze Sculpture is held The Regent’s Park, London, from 20 September–29 October, 2023. Frieze Sculpture coincides with Frieze London and Frieze Masters, which take place concurrently from 11–15 October, 2023.
De Buck Gallery brings an online exclusive of Zak Ové’s most prominent works. View these works Here.