Artist Esmaa Mohamoud explores the ways in which Black bodies at once appear—and yet are rendered metaphorically invisible—within the spaces they navigate. She re-examines understandings of contemporary Blackness, questioning the definitions of Blackness as a colour and shade, and/or as a societal or cultural construction.
Mohamoud draws on the contemporary industry of professional sports, which she equates with a covert form of neo-slavery. The London, Ontario-born artist transforms athletic equipment and symbols to illustrate pervasive, discriminatory behaviours and attitudes based on race, class, gender, and sexuality. She examines collective and individual struggle, focusing on the homogenization of bodies within professional sports, and the enforced playout of competitive violence between Black subjects.
Through sculpture, photography, video, and installation, Mohamoud investigates how high-level athletics operate as sites of corporate profit and discrimination. Reconstructed equipment also celebrates individuality and cultural plurality through exuberant, diverse designs. To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat is a plea to address the inequities driving contemporary sports entertainment systems, while envisioning agency, resilience, and collective strength.