Sharjah Art Foundation announced today the release of its first commissioned vinyl record. Titled ‘house of MAKEdba’, the vinyl is a recording of Neo Muyanga’s Sharjah Biennial 14 (SB14) interactive installation, which featured a live performance, of the same title. Muyanga presented the SB14 work in memory of the influential South African artist Miriam Makeba (1932–2008).
Although much has been written about Makeba as a jazz singer and intellectual, her role as primary translator of what it meant to be an African in a world of declining empire has often been reduced to a footnote. Unable to return home to South Africa due to her outspoken views on apartheid, Makeba lived for a time in ‘Muslim Africa’, performing, for example, at the 1978 Pan-African Games in Algiers. Her presence at the games elevated the minority view that North African countries should be included under the banner of Pan-African solidarity. For Muyanga, the value of Miriam Makeba today is that she points us to a global future of contingency and a questioning of the assumption that home is static, homogenous and secure.
The sound work is also tribute to Makeda, the ancient legendary queen of Sheba. The project juxtaposes the ‘voices’ of these two figures and wonders what it would have meant for us if they had not been born over 2000 years apart but had been contemporaries who had known and talked with one another.
Curated by Zoe Butt, Muyanga’s interactive installation activated the space at Sharjah Art Foundation’s Al Hamriyah Studios through a performance of the sound work which took place in March 2019 during the opening week of SB14. The artist performed with two record players, weaving layers of Makeba’s vocals through his own compositions to create a space of healing and memory. Conducted by Muyanga, the performance also featured a chamber orchestra and four singers (Tine Mene, soprano; Siphokazi Molteno, alto; Ongama Mohlontlo, tenor; and Theo Magongoma, baritone). The installation invited visitors to play the records and dwell in the restorative sounds of Makeba’s legacy for the duration of the Biennial.
house of MAKEdbA on vinyl is available for purchase and can be ordered online by emailing email@example.com.
About Neo Muyanga
Neo Muyanga is a composer, musician and librettist who tours widely, both as a solo performer and in various bands. He has composed music plays, chorus songs and a number of operatic works for chamber and large ensembles.
Muyanga co-founded the live music platform and cyber-steam portal Pan African Space Station with publisher/editor Ntone Edjabe in 2008 and the acoustic soul duo Blk Sonshine with Masauko Chipembere in 1996. His recorded albums include second-hand reading (2016), toro tse sekete (2015), dipalo (2011), good life (2009), fire famine plague and earthquake (2007), the listening room (2003) and blk sonshine (1999). Among his published works are the opera heart of redness (2015), the chamber opera the flower of shembe (2012) and the music play memory of how it feels (2010).
Muyanga was composer-in-residence at the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (2017) and the National Arts Festival of South Africa (2017) and a participant in the Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD (2016). He has collaborated with activist organisations Sonke Gender Justice, Equal Education and the Community Development Resource Association and worked as a research affiliate at the University of Cape Town’s Drama School and Centre for African Studies, the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) and the Humanities Research Institute, University of California, Irvine. He is also a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative and the Aspen Institute.
He studied madrigal singing under choral maestro Piero Poclen at the United World College in Trieste, Italy. Born in Soweto, he currently lives and works in Cape Town.
About Sharjah Art Foundation
Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. Under the leadership of founder Hoor Al Qasimi, a curator and artist, the Foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The Foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.
Established in 2009 to expand programmes beyond the Sharjah Biennial, which launched in 1993, the Foundation is a critical resource for artists and cultural organisations in the Gulf and a conduit for local, regional and international developments in contemporary art. The Foundation’s deep commitment to developing and sustaining the cultural life and heritage of Sharjah is reflected through year-round exhibitions, performances, screenings and learning programmes in the city of Sharjah and across the Emirate, often hosted in historic buildings that have been repurposed as cultural and community centres. A growing collection reflects the Foundation’s support of contemporary artists in the realisation of new work and its recognition of the contributions made by pioneering modern artists from the region and around the world.
Sharjah Art Foundation is a legally independent public body established by Emiri Decree and supported by government funding, grants from national and international nonprofits and cultural organisations, corporate sponsors and individual patrons. All exhibitions are free and open to the public.
Sharjah is the third largest of the seven United Arab Emirates and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates. It was named UNESCO's Arab Capital of Culture in 1998 and the UNESCO World Book Capital in 2019.
Alyazeyah Al Reyaysa