03 Aug 2023 - 24 Mar 2024

Past Disquiet



Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) proudly announces the opening of a new exhibition titled Past Disquiet on Thursday, 3 August 2023.

Past Disquiet is a documentary and archival exhibition based on research conducted by Lebanese curator-writers duo, and long-time collaborators, Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti. For over a decade, they explored four seed collections of art that were intended to be “museums in solidarity” or “museums in exile”, that incarnated the engagement of artists with a particular political cause. It is an exhibition of stories told with documents, photographs, pamphlets, press clippings, posters, interviews, and videos.

The research began as the two curators explored how the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, which took place in Beirut (Lebanon) in 1978, was meant to become the nucleus for a museum in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle. Despite the size and scope of the exhibition, yet unprecedented for the region, it seems to have been totally forgotten. The story of that museum was closely connected to other similar collections and initiatives, namely, the International Museum of The Resistance ‘Salvador Allende’, the Artists Contre/Against Apartheid, and Art for the People of Nicaragua.

Central to our context, the curators expanded their research into Art Against Apartheid, conceived in 1978 by French artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest and the late Spanish painter Antonio Saura. This was a travelling exhibition of works by internationally recognised artists produced to raise awareness of the unjust regime of the National Party. In 1996, the collection made a homecoming, with the artworks exhibited in Parliament in Cape Town, taking the place of colonial portraits and landscapes to symbolise a new dawning of democracy in the nation, and now housed in the University of the Western Cape Robben Island Mayibuye Archives.

This latest incarnation of Past Disquiet follows in the footsteps of earlier iterations at institutions in Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Santiago de Chile, and Beirut. Presenting new research developed at Zeitz MOCAA in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape’s Centre for Humanities Research and Mayibuye Archives, the Robben Island Museum, Parliament of South Africa, and anti-apartheid cultural collectives and figures from the 1980s, Past Disquiet extends the museum’s art historical agenda. It considers exhibition histories and cultural networks in the Global South while connecting to the artistic, intellectual, and political issues of our contemporary moment.

The exhibition and visual identity are designed by Studio Safar, a design agency and publisher established in Beirut (2012) and in Montreal (2020).

“Past Disquiet is one of the most significant contributions of our time to a more representative art history – and reminds us that artists and artworks are central to liberation, and essential participants for facilitating change in an unjust world. The stories brought to life in this extraordinary document, have not been merely forgotten, but have been actively erased or neglected. It is our mission to write these back into the record – not only for the history of the continent, but into a narrative of a world that has a connected and entangled present and future, ” says Koyo Kouoh, Executive Director and Chief Curator of Zeitz MOCAA.

Press release from Zeitz MOCAA

Image: Photograph from the tour of the Apartheid Non! International Art Festival, Japan, 1988-1990. Image courtesy of Art Front Gallery