HUNTER BRAITHWAITE Let’s talk about how movement factors into your work. As the daughter of a Mozambican mother and an American father, you grew up in Africa, Haiti, and the United States. You travel constantly, often setting up studios in hotel rooms or Airbnbs. Are you playing with the notion of the nomadic, post-studio artist?
CASSI NAMODA I think at some point in your life, you accept the way you are and embrace the way you operate. It’s a very spiritual realization, and also very liberating. I seem to have created a sort of perfect transatlantic path for myself, where I need both dimensions differently. It also is true for my work. My upbringing followed the particular cadence of African life; it was a sort of Aristotelian training/boot camp, hence my peripatetic perspective. So my practice is really tied into the journey, and I like this kind of shifting of space. I feel familiar with the unfamiliar.
HB You mentioned the cadence of African life. Now that you live elsewhere, how do you feel that landscape is embedded in the way you work?
CN At times, when I paint, I’m deeply nostalgic for my time spent in Africa and the duality of living in urban and rural worlds. I am interested in the mundaneness of African life: the daily motions of the people, the wanderings of animals, the culture and architecture itself. The colonial, Brutalist, Deco, experimentalist architectures, the wide boulevards along the coast of Maputo City in my native Mozambique.
HB Your exhibition at Nina Johnson Gallery reflects upon Kenyan philosopher John Mbiti’s seminal book African Religions & Philosophy (1961). In the book, which compares Western and African forms of belief, Mbiti focuses on two Swahili notions of time: Zamani and Sasha. How do Mbiti’s ideas factor into your practice at the moment?
CN I am interested in the paradoxes of African life, the negotiation of Western religion and African spirituality. Sasha and Zamani are two aspects of time as expressed in some Eastern and Central African cultures. Sasha are spirits known by someone still alive, while Zamani are spirits not known by anyone currently alive. Sasha are concerned with, and are expressed as, the present time, the recent past, and the near future, while Zamani is the limitless past. Potential time is the third part of the space-time continuum in African thinking. People must learn from the past to act wisely in the present to create a good future.