A Grace Project
Neo Muyanga: A Grace Project
Limited edition of 300
AVAILABLE At SAVVY Contemporary and online via the Liverpool Biennial online shop or via: firstname.lastname@example.org
This new 12” vinyl record, A Grace Project, was produced in collaboration with SAVVY Contemporary and the Liverpool Biennial where Neo Muyanga presents the video installation A Maze in Grace (2021), newly commissioned by Liverpool Biennial and Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. Muyanga’s composition is inspired by the song “Amazing Grace” – a hymn which is loaded with history. Composed by English slaver-turned-abolitionist John Newton, the song was reinterpreted as an emblem of the Civil Rights Movement and is still performed today at moments of public ceremony and collective mourning in the US and across the world.
Though more widely associated with African American emancipation than with slavery, Muyanga’s reinterpretation of “Amazing Grace” connects the origins of the song to its murkier history, and to Liverpool’s – John Newton lived in the city and sailed on slave ships from Liverpool’s port. The sonic video installation was a performance by Khayelitsha-based mezzo soprano, Tina Mene, and the popular São Paolo protest theatre troupe, Legítima Defesa. Legítima Defesa is a multidisciplinary troupe named for Malcolm X’s famed statement that framed strategies of resistance mounted by African Americans against a racist state as ‘legitimate defence.’
The video, partially recorded during a performance for the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, was co-commissioned with Fundação Bienal São Paulo. In it, another layer of history is referenced – as ships sailed from Liverpool to West Africa, taking captured slaves to Brazil. The work details some of the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the reimagining of this hymn at this time in history presents an opportunity for introspection.
Neo Muyanga is a composer and sound artist whose work traverses new opera, jazz improvisation, Zulu and Sesotho idiomatic songs. He initially trained to sing in choirs in Soweto and learned madrigals in Italy in the 1990s. A co-founder of the duo Blk Sonshine alongside Masauko Chipembere, he also created the Pan African Space Station (2008) with Ntone Edjabe – a platform for experimental Pan African music on the internet. He has released eight albums, including Second-hand Reading with William Kentridge (2016), and MAKEbdA (2019) which was a featured sound installation during the Sharjah Biennial, UAE (2019).
RECORDING AND PRODUCTION Neo Muyanga at Parque Ibirapuera (São Paolo) and Chamber Kwa (Cape Town)
Performers Tina Mene (Soprano), Legítima Defesa (chorus) and Neo Muyanga (Minstrel)
SPATIAL MIX Dave Langemann
COMPOSITIONS AND DRAWINGS Neo Muyanga
COPYRIGHT Neo Muyanga
COMMISSIONED AND PRODUCED By Liverpool Biennial 2021: The Stomach and the Port. Curated by Manuela Moscoso
LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL PRODUCTION TEAM Justin O´Shaughnessy and Abi Mitchell
RELEASED BY SAVVY records at SAVVY Contemporary
CREATIVE PRODUCTION Abhishek Nilamber and Billy Fowo
MANAGEMENT Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock
DESIGN Juan Pablo Garcia Sossa
COMMUNICATIONS Anna Jäger
Teaser Abhishek Nilamber
This project is part of A MAZE IN GRACE (2020), co-commissioned by Liverpool Biennial and Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. Neo Muyanga’s A Grace Project (2021) is commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2021, and released in collaboration with SAVVY records.