THE ARTIST ESMAA MOHAMOUD, DRESSING UP BOYS WITH BIG GOWNS, LOOKS AT MASCULINITY WITH A FEMININE EYE AND SHOWS HOW HARMONIOUS THE DIVERSITY CAN BE. ART ALLOWS US TO SEE FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE, NOT ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL BUT ALSO WHAT DISTURBS OUR MIND AND LEADS TO REFLECTION.
The African-Canadian artist Esmaa Mohamoud immediately captured the attention on the international art scene. Her deeply and evocative works are the representation of a genderless and fluid vision of masculinity that characterises our times.
At the event “Every. Now. Then.Reframing Nationhood” at the “Art Gallery of Ontario” that welcomes works by emerging artists from Canada, who impressed the most was the young artist Esmaa Mohamoud. In her installation there are black guys with basketball jerseys of the legendary Vince Carter, star of the Toronto Raptors in the late 90s, both wearing sumptuous gowns.
The impression is that of being catapulted into a surreal world in which there are no genders, no races, no borders: this is “One of the Boys”. In this project there are not just simple living sculptures, but symbols that represent how important the culture of sport is in American society, to affirm their masculinity and also, in the case of black boys, their own identity.
In an interview with i-D Magazine, Esmaa says, “I am interested in how we interpret the concept of “gender” within race. I have used athleticism as a way to enter within this” In this installation there is a lot of the artist’s cultural background, both of her childhood and of her childhood memories. The only female daughter, Mohamoud grew up as a basketball fan but often had to defend her love for this sport, just because she was a female. For her, during her childhood, Vince Carter was a hero, the symbol of someone who had achieved his goal. It is to him, and to all the black guys who have taken his path, that “Heavy, Heavy (Hoop Dreams)” is dedicated; a collection of 60 deflated cement basketballs arranged on a slab of black plexiglass. The basketballs are something heavy, that she presents as fragile objects, as dreams often are.
Sport thus becomes something aggregating, which creates a community and the cohesion of a group beyond every boundary, a team. The gowns made by Qendrim Hoti transport the observer to another level of analysis: what does it mean to be a man today? In these works there is something extremely personal but also a strong provocation that in a world focused on women’s rights, is often overshadowed. If on the one hand it is fundamental to affirm your own femininity, why not have the possibility to affirm your own masculinity? This is one of the many reflections awaiting the first solo exhibition of Esmaa that will open on February 16th, just the same weekend that LA will host the NBA All-Star Game in 2018.
Text Irene Bellucci