Transmission in Motion


17 May 2023
15:15 - 16:45
Israëlslaan 118 Room 0.15, 3582HM Utrecht

Meet the Makers: Neo Muyanga


Photographer: I. Junicker


In this session, Neo Muyanga presents the making of his recent production, ‘A Maze in Grace’, at the 34th São Paolo Art Biennale (2020).

Amazing Grace was reportedly one of the hymns of solidarity that resounded spontaneously among those locals who gathered first at Ground Zero – the lower Manhattan district in New York City’s where the infamous twin towers were located – to mourn the loss of life in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th terror attacks on US soil. It was also the hymn Barack Obama elected to lead the congregation of a South Carolina church in singing during his delivery of the eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney – one of the victims of a terrorist shooting in 2015. According to ABC News, the occasion was ‘widely acknowledged as one of the most powerful moments of (Obama’s) presidency’. These recent incidents served to, once again, cement the hymn as one of America’s favourites. Many who sing it in that country, as well as across the African diaspora, are only aware of the song’s celebrated legacy from within the United State’s civil rights moment of the 1960s and beyond. But should singers also be cognisant of the complex provenance of the hymn from the pen of John Newton – one of Britain’s most notorious slave traders turned latter-day abolitionist, lest we partake in the promotion of glossing over the long shadow cast by past atrocities over present realities?

This talk will detail the making of a recent ‘glitch’ presentation of the hymn as the multimedia performance installation, a Maze in Grace, featuring one of Brazil’s most cutting edge agitation threater and black rights collectives at the 34th São Paolo Art Biennale.

Neo Muyanga is a composer and installation artist. His work traverses new opera, improv and African idiomatic song. He lives and works out of Cape Town.


Suggested viewing:

  • Video: “A Maze in Grace, premiered at the 34th Bienal de São Paolo, 2020”. Accessible on or via this link.


**This session is a part of Meet the Makers, which aims to facilitate meetings and conversations between academic researchers and students, and makers – such as artists, curators, dramaturges, designers, or other creative practitioners and professionals within the wider field of arts and culture.