AtWork New York Chapter 14


AtWork New York Chapter 14

New York, USA
May 30th-June 3d, 2019


The Africa Center


“Where is South?”


Simon Njami

“South is where the transformation starts”

Kasmir Jones, AtWork New York participant

AtWork New York Chapter 14 has been implemented by Moleskine Foundation in partnership with The Africa Center, which also hosted the exhibition.
It was the first leg of the AtWork Tour 2019 “Where is South?”.

Simon Njami comments on the topic: “The word ‘South’ may seem to designate a precise point, but upon reflection, we realize that this is totally inaccurate. Let us try to liberate the four points of the compass from any ideology, and reconsider them for what they are: directions. If we succeed in doing so, we will rediscover that South and North do not exist as such; rather, their meanings become activated through our way of thinking. No matter where we are, there is always a ‘South.’ Therefore, we hold the power to define its meaning: ‘South’ begins with us.”

“AtWork just ripped everything apart, so that I could start over. And it was beautiful. It shifted the way I am absorbing the information in general. Walking away from this experiece I am going to be a different person in every way in which I interact with the world.”

Dalaeja Foreman, AtWork New York participant

The Workshop

The workshop took place in New York, USA on May 30th-June 3d 2019 and was conducted by AtWork advisor Simon Njami. 23 young creative talents from New York with the backgrounds ranging from Nigeria, Ghana, Tunis, Sudan, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Jamaica, Eritrea, Italy, North Macedonia, US, The Dominican Republique and more, got together under the guidance of the leaders to debate, critique and exchange about what “South” really meant to them. The creative outcome of these reflections was spilled out on a notebook by each participant, producing 23 personal Souths, which will exhibited as part of the final international exhibition of “Where is South?” Tour in 2020.

“Day by day, we became the sculptors of our narrative, etching away at the layers of performance, politic, masks, and confusion that have been created and imposed by ourselves and others, obfuscating our space of origin.”

Yohana Zecarias, AtWork New York participant

The Leader: Simon Njami

Simon Njami is an independent curator, lecturer, art critic, and writer. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of “Revue Noire.” Previously, Njami was the artistic director of the Bamako Photography Biennial 2000-2010, and co-curator of the first African pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. He has curated a number of contemporary art and photography exhibitions, including Africa Remix (2004-2007) and the first African art fair in Johannesburg in 2008. In 2014, The Divine Comedy exhibition, created and curated by him, started a world tour at the MMK (Museum für Moderne Kunst) in Frankfurt, moving on to the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah and the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. He is the director of the Pan African Master Classes in Photography, a project created in partnership with the Goethe Institute; artistic director of the Donwahi Foundation (Abidjan, Ivory Coast); adviser to the Sindika Dokolo Collection (Luanda, Angola); secretary of the special jury of the World Press Photography Awards; artistic director of the first edition of Off Biennale (Cairo, 2015) and the 2016 and 2018 Dak’Art Biennale (Dakar, Senegal), the first and most important artistic event in Africa.

 “My South is a journey bringing me back to memories and sensations that inspire me to move forward.”

Nina Baratti, AtWork New York participant



The experience

The workshop took place at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, where the participants had a collective discussion about what “South” meant to them, they explored their personal points of departure, what made them who they are and where that point of departure is leading today. The diversity of the backgrounds of the participants allowed for everyone to bring a unique perspective to the discussion from their respective culture, only to see that our human experience is not that different across borders and religions. There was dancing, singing, crying, poetry was read, a critical thinking freestyle performed. “What we found beyond the intellectual linguistic gymnastics was a vulnerability that shattered our complicated lies and pointed to our simple truths of being, love, life, and death. Even through disparate tongues, we were able to find each other in ourselves, to help each of us re-member what has been broken and lost.”, says AtWork New York participant Yohana Zecarias in her intro text for the exhibition catalogue. “22 people left this basement on June 3rd 2019 not with a book, but a vision and expression of their South. We were given the power of definition, and with it, we recreated stories of creation that located us as the starting point. Why do we hold onto stories and meanings that do not serve us; stories that bind and trap us? In order to be free, you must first understand what is keeping you bound.”

“This is not a notebook…”

Simon Njami, AtWork New York conductor

The exhibition

The Moleskine notebooks created by the participants during the workshop have been integrated into the existing “I had a dream” exhibition at The Africa Center. It was curated by the workshop participants under the leadership of Dalajea Foreman and Vasilis Onwuaduegbo. It inaugurated on June 13th and is scheduled to stay until July 21st, 2019. The opening of the exhibition at The Africa Center was accompanied by the panel moderated by Editor in Chief of Okey Africa Rachel Hislop in conversation with AtWorkers Devin Osorio, Yohana Zecarias and Dalaeja Foreman. A special catalogue featuring the personal “Souths” and the related notebooks of all the participants has been produced by the participants themselves.

Participants list

  • Ladin Awad
    Nina Baratti
    Kirila Cvetkovska
    Gabe Dorta
    Amal Fawundu-Buford
    Dalaeja Foreman
    Faten Gaddes
    Neema Githere
    Stephanie Gomez
    Erikka James
    Jolly Chidiadi James

  • Kasmir Jones
    Trey Kimbrew
    Megan Kindsfather
    Nora Molina
    Stephanie Ologan
    Vasilis Onwuaduegbo
    Devin Osorio
    Ruben Ramirez
    Amber Ramos
    Gloria Tolentino
    Yohana Zecarias
    Papa Baiden


  • Partners:
    The Africa Center

    Uzodinma Iweala

    Program Director:
    Alana Hairston

    Curator in residence:
    Evelyn Owen

    Workshop venue:
    Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture

  • Photo and video shooting workshop:
    Brenda Céspedes and Holguer Cruz

    Photo shooting exhibition:
    Tahmid Chowdury

    Exhibition Design:
    Design Group Italia headed by Gabriel Zangari

    Special thank you to:
    Teranga Café