Onajide Shabaka: On the edge of tomorrows…

February 20, 2022 - April 9th, 2022

Reception: Sunday, February 20, 2022, 12 PM - 4 PM

“I have forged a path for my artistic interests that challenges the status quo of the art world"

Onajide Shabaka: On the edge of tomorrows…

Emerson Dorsch Gallery is proud to announce the exhibition Onajide Shabaka: On the edge of tomorrows…. A selection of works made throughout Shabaka’s five-decade career.

“We said in our introduction that man was a yes. We shall never stop repeating it. Yes to life. Yes to love. Yes to generosity. But man is also a no. No to man’s contempt. No to the indignity of man. To the exploitation of man. To the massacre of what is most human in man: freedom… To induce man to be actional, by maintaining in his circularity the respect of the fundamental values that make the world human, that this is the task of utmost urgency for he who, after careful reflection, prepares to act.”

– Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks.[i]


“A sacred experience then covered in smoke
In the boundless temple of heaven and its particles,
[a] Message from our ancestors
When the tears have stopped flowing and the blood is dried”

– Four titles of Onajide Shabaka’s artworks,
in order on the exhibition’s south wall


Shabaka has said of his practice: “…my work, in its engagement with nature, history, technology and ritual – allows the viewers to experience a more holistic view of the world.”* The show is a remix, one that evokes the artist’s range of expression and the web of connections he makes between stories, ethnobotany, deep mapping, and anthropology, among many other themes. With his practice and work, the artist imbues into his practice a model of how one can hold accumulated memories of horrific truths in history and place while in the midst of a land’s beauty and persistence. The show includes a cross section of media, from photography, mixed media collage on paper, to an artist book, watercolors and prints. A trio of Shabaka’s totemic sculptures will be installed in front of a new mural, inspired by his collage, You cannot know in advance what will happen (2021).

His video Silenced Histories (2019-21) will play concurrently during the exhibition as part of Emerson Dorsch Online (EDO), a video channel on the gallery’s website. Filmed while on a walk in the Gullah Geechee Cultural Corridor near the former lands of Major Pierce Butler’s plantation, the video documents how the histories in that place seem to be invisible, but, with the knowledge given forth by the credits, its dark pasts are more palpable, if ghostly.

The crisscrossing juxtapositions within the exhibition echo the connections Shabaka draws out, like constellations, between formal patterns in plants, and their uses in various cultures and migrations between them. He places planetary movements, in proximity to spirits sensed in the muck, to the religious practices of the African diaspora. And he accompanies these with collected stories of consciousness, grief, determination, resilience, and adaptation.

Emerson Dorsch would like to acknowledge those who helped bring this exhibition together: Onajide Shabaka, Sinisa Kukec, Scott “Rage” Johnson, Oliver Sanchez and the team at Swam Space Miami, Marcos Cherlo, Francesco Casale, Juan Gonzalez, and Daniel Clapp. Without your support, consistency, and tireless efforts, our exhibitions would not be possible. Thank you!




*Shabaka quoted in Anne Tschida, “Trading Studio and Museum Space,” Knight Arts Blog, September 14, 2012





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