Senses of Time
Video and Film-Based Works of Africa
September 10 — December 11, 2016

Karen E. Milbourne
National Museum of African Art
Smithsonian Institution


Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts
Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Consulting Curator of African Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)


The seven African artists featured in Senses of Time explore how time is experienced—and produced—by the body. In nine video and film-based works, bodies climb, dance, and dissolve; characters repeat, resist, or reverse the expectation that time must move relentlessly forward; and pacing, sequencing, looping, layering, and mirroring are used to invite viewers to contemplate tensions between ritual and technological time, personal and political time.

The exhibition features Yinka Shonibare’s cinematic Un Ballo in Maschera (2004), in which European ballroom dancers in sumptuous African-print-style gowns dramatize the absurdities of political violence as history repeats itself. Sammy Baloji’s Memoire (2006) explores choreographies of memory and forgetting in the haunted ruins of postcolonial deindustrialization. Berni Searle’s ancestral family portraits are tossed by the waves of generational loss in About to Forget (2005); in A Matter of Time (2003) Searle performs the slipperiness and fragility of time and identity. Moataz Nasr’s The Water (2002) treads upon personal identities distorted by the march of time, while in Theo Eshutu’s Brave New World III (2016), visitors are drawn into a captivating kaleidoscopic space where past, present, and future converge. Also included are Jim Chuchu’s black-and-white animated films Invocation: The Severance of Ties and Invocation: Release (both 2015), and Sue Williamson’s multi-generational narrative There’s Something I must tell you (2013).

Senses of Time is a collaborative project between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, and the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art.