Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki presents Mother Tongue, a work by internationally acclaimed Australian artist Angelica Mesiti, from Saturday 19 December.

Mother Tongue is an 18-minute, dual-channel video installation that celebrates and examines the ways communities learn to live together. In this work, Mesiti shows how music builds social cohesion and is carried from place to place by people as they integrate into new communities. The work was produced with the participation of school children, employees of Aarhus Kommune, the Ramallah Boy Scouts troop, the Jaffra Dancers, Gellerup Circus School and residents of the Gellerupparken housing development.

Originally commissioned by the European Capital of Culture Aarhus in 2017, the physical presentation of Mother Tongue resembles an open book, with two screens showing cinematic musical performances by a range of individuals and groups in urban, civic, learning and residential spaces in Aarhus, Denmark. The music they sing or perform to – which ranges from popular radio hits to traditional folk songs, Somali blues, marching drills and wedding dances – represent the diversity of communities living within this modern Danish city.

Auckland Art Gallery Director Kirsten Lacy says, ‘Around the world, song and movement provide vital social connection and ways of expressing identity. This major cinematic work by Angelica Mesiti demonstrates the power of music and dance in affirming cultural identity. Diverse migrant communities the world over will relate to themes of longing, belonging and making home in a new country.’

Co-ordinating curator Ane Tonga says: ‘Mother Tongue looks specifically at the assortment of languages, sounds and rhythms that pulsate through a city. Moving between individual and collective, nostalgic longing and optimism, the work reflects a contemporary society in which individuals make powerful efforts to retain and translate cultural connections in new places.’

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Last updated: 17 December 2020