The Divine Comedy

Heaven, Hell, Purgatory from the point of view of African contemporary artists

Zoulikha Bouabdellah, silence rouge, 2009 © Zoulikha Bouabdellah

Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is one of the classics of world literature. In its depiction of human society from antiquity until the Middle Ages, it draws a connection between Christian beliefs and ancient heathen concepts which derive from a genuinely European system of values. On his journey into the next world, Dante encounters the ancient poet Vergil and his muse Beatrice who introduce him to the three otherworldly realms – hell, purgatory and paradise – each of which mirrors the social and political circumstances on earth. The same categories served as the basis for the curatorial concept of this exhibition which aimed to surmount the Eurocentric perspective of this work. Sixty African artists from 22 African countries from a wide range of artistic areas (painting, photography, sculpture, video, performance, installation) presented their own cultural, ethnic or religious interpretations of hell, purgatory and paradise. The result was a more differentiated and refined image of human society which extends beyond the horizon of European interpretation. The curator of the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MMK) in Frankfurt am Main was the Swiss-born Simon Njami, the son of Cameroonian parents. He made a name for himself on the international stage as the curator of the African pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2007) and the first curator of the African Art Fair in Johannesburg in 2008.

Artistic director: Simon Njami (FR)
Artists: Jane Alexander (SA), Fernando Alvim (AO), Ghada Amer (ET), Kader Attia (FR), Kendel Geers (SA) Frances Goodman (SA), Julie Merethu (ETH), Wangeshi Mutu (KE), Lamia Naji (MA), Yinka Shonibare (UK), and others.


MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst

Domstraße 10

60311 Frankfurt am Main (external link, opens in a new window)