The video Muxima is part of an extraordinary series of projects developed by Alfredo Jaar on the history of Africa. “Muxima” means “heart” and is also the title of a popular Angolan song in which local poetry melds with the fado of the old Portuguese colonial power and Brazilian music. Divided into ten cantos, the variations on this song accompany the Chilean artist’s images of today’s Angola and organize the video into chapters. Images of children swimming in the sea alternate with shots of buildings destroyed in the civil war. Scenes from an interview in which parents talk about their missing children follow images of a huge open-air cinema or a mine detector at work. Told in images and music, the history of a country stretching from the colonial era and the Cold War through civil war into a present characterized above all by the struggle against poverty and AIDS provides a readily accessible portrait of modern Angola.
Alfredo Jaar is one of the few artists to have included a political message consistently in their work from the very outset. His interest focuses primarily on the relationship between the West and the so-called Third World as well as its representation in the mass media and their images. Jaar has documented the irresponsible approach of the Western media to the African countries in numerous projects exposing the international community’s ignorance of the continent. Searching for Africa in LIFE (2007) examines the covers of the American magazine and shows that between 1930 and 1990 only five were devoted to the situation in the black continent, four of which focusing exclusively on its flora and fauna. The long-term Rwanda Project (1994–2000), comprising 21 works on the situation in Rwanda after the genocide, is certainly the most important and best known of those addressing this complex question. Muxima also presents a controversial image of Africa today, one that is hardly ever offered to the Western public. We see a country left to cope on its own after years of colonial domination, just like practically all the other African countries, a country that is now more than ever before in search of an identity and a future of peace.
Alfredo Jaar (Santiago, 1956), one of the most important contemporary artists, has taken part in the major biennials of Venice, Johannesburg, Sydney and Istanbul. Currently exhibited at the Spazio Oberdan Hangar Bicocca in Milan, his works have also been presented at the MACRO in Rome, the Whitechapel Gallery in London, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and many other venues. The Muxima project has been already been shown at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the 2007 Venice Biennial. Alfredo Jaar lives and works in New York.