Chicago’s Kavi Gupta Gallery is showcasing a new exhibition of works by African-Canadian artist, Esmaa Mohamoud. Entitled Let Them Consume Me in the Light, the Toronto-based artist is presenting a series of sculptures that probe into what the artist calls “Black body politics”, or a web of interconnected social, historical, economic and personal connotations of Blackness — both perceived by the Black community and non-Black people alike.
Cinematic in tone, Mohamoud is showcasing four paradoxical sculptures that act as monuments of nostalgia on a road towards nirvana. Perched high up the gallery is a tall peacock chair made of rattan that is named to pay homage to an actress who once towered over her contemporaries, while simultaneously dissecting darker undertones to which the original peacock chairs were once built by slaves in colonial Asia.
Similarly elevated to exaggerated levels is a vintage pink Cadillac whose tireless rims give way to metal stilts that support the vehicle. Shiny and clearly alluring on first glance, Mohamoud has gutted the car of all its primary functions, rendering it useless. Entitled Nirvana (Oh, Sweet Elham), the artwork was conceptually inspired by a miniature black Cadillac VHS tape rewinder that Mohamoud’s grandmother Elham once owned — prompting the artist to research how the American automobile became an aspect of Black identity, but also learning how the Black community was racially discriminated from purchasing luxury cars in the 20th century.
Set atop Italian marble plinths, Gluttony, Gluttony, Gluttony features a series of busts made of Ghanaian shea butter, known for its nourishing qualities, which she in-turn subverted to serve as a haunting reflection of the young African girls who are ruthlessly exploited in harvesting these shea nuts.
At the core of the exhibition is Mohamoud’s belief that Black cultural products are inevitably exploited by majoritarian society. “They should consume us in the light of the truth,” notes the artist, “in the light of racial injustice, in the light of the things we don’t usually want to talk about.” By opening this dialogue, she invites the audience to reconsider our nostalgia for misrepresented histories.
Let Them Consume Me in the Light will be on view at Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago until August 26.
Kavi Gupta Gallery
835 W Washington Blvd floors 1-3
Chicago, IL 60607