The artist translates conceptual affirmations of her creative self into the multi-sensory piece and way of thinking, Power to the God Within
Almost three years after the release of Jojo Abot’s debut EP, Fyfya Woto, I remain drawn to her subversive sonic aesthetic that sound simultaneously familiar yet new. A globetrotting Ghanaian artist, Abot is dedicated to expanding the realms of music, image making and performance through her rich exploration of spirituality, identity and freedom. Social media has been a great way to keep up with Abot’s mission. Her Instagram account is best described as a place of transient scripture. She says of her captions that they are the “gospel according to Fyfya Woto”. A take on her grandmother’s name, Fyfya Woto, meaning ‘new birth - new discovery’, invokes commitment to constant evolution and an understanding that in order to be discovered, one must first exist, wholly.
In the past year, Abot has taken part in the New Museum’s incubator programme, New Inc, and is now enjoying a residency at the performance space National Sawdust, both in NYC. She’s also been on tour with Ms Lauryn Hill and shared major stages in the US with Common, Seun Kuti and Stephen Marley.
But we encounter each other in Johannesburg, where she spends significant time and recorded her second EP, Ngiwunkulunkulu, released last year, which translates to ‘I am God’ in isiZulu. The accompanying videos, visuals and her more recent single, Alime ft. Elo & Yuyo, prove that South Africa’s music and socio political realities have been significant influences.
One day, we agree to meet at a pan African restaurant in Jeppestown. Having recently returned from shows in Australia and New Zealand, I ask her about the trip. “It was heavy, necessary and provocative, a forced expansion in retrospection,” Abot says, adding that she is “generally grateful for active stimulation on the condition that it gets me to where it needs to get me.”
For a while now, Abot’s work has converged around the slogan ‘Power to the God Within’. Naturally, I am curious to know more. How should one, in an increasingly post-absolutist world, understand this “God”? Abot patiently explains, as we enjoy a meal of pap and okro stew.
“A lot of my work and practise is contemplative. I think it all comes back to knowing the self,” she begins. “So for me, God is the ability to change circumstance: to shift reality and outcomes, to be a part of the alchemy of one’s life and the author of one’s fate. Oftentimes, because of colonisation and western religions, we give away our authority and audacity, the nerve to exist and to create change in the way we would like to. We forget that once upon a time, we too could change circumstance: we deflect and give away our power and deform to the point of becoming powerless beings.”
“Power to the God within is really about bringing it back to the self in a humbling and empowering way”
On why she started this social media conversation, she says: “I started to use the hashtags God, Being, Goddess: all of these terms have been identities that were designed to be of service, not identities that were necessarily designed toward power. Being able to shift circumstance and reality comes with a greater sense of consciousness and responsibility.” She alludes to a divine sense of responsibility as a part of any creative process: “It is this idea of privilege and responsibility being on a scale, balancing each other out. By exercising privilege you have a responsibility.”
Consequently, “Daring to be the God is understanding that you occupy space and time with a purpose and that any shift in the scale has to come back to you, whether in the now or in the future. So if that’s the case, in trying to get closer to yourself and attempting to discover the power of the God plugged deep within your core, you must acknowledge her extended arms and roots plugged into a universal force which existed long before civilization, education, colonisation, slavery and other western initiatives that aimed to pull at and weaken the root of the African spirit.”
She concludes that, “God exists as a central unit that allows you to offshoot into all of these rather unsettled veins and questions that we have as humans. Understanding that will and power that comes from within allows you to harness it. It also allows you to be sober as you go through this lifetime being mindful to accumulate good energy and good elements for your DNA to pass on. This ties directly into this idea of ancestral inheritance, both in its physical and its spiritual manifestations… Power to the God within is really about bringing it back to the self in a humbling and empowering way. Ultimately, the idea that I could possibly be God in that I could cause change to happen in my circumstance and in my reality is powerful.”
Abot is now ready to channel these conceptual and spiritual manifestations into a multi-sensory experience. This Saturday, she will be creating a sacred and shared space at the National Sawdust where, through moving and still imagery, multi-media art installations, sound and performance art, the artist invites you to reimagine your SELF and the world you occupy daily. Prepare to be blown away.
Power to the God Within by Jojo Abot is at National Sawdust, Brooklyn on 14 July 2018
Photography Liz Many
Styling and direction Jojo Abot
Visit Jojo Abot
Published on 11/07/2018