Thero Makepe

Thero Makepe’s project We Didn’t Choose to be Born Here weaves together several historical routes: that of his mother, growing up in Botswana after escaping the Apartheid regime of South Africa with her parents. That of his great-uncle, Zephania Mothopeng, the anti-Apartheid activist, imprisoned on Robben Island. And that of his grandfather, and his love for music, inspiring Makepe to pursue a creative career.

What at first glance may appear as a personal family narrative, in fact reveals the painful, racist and discriminatory political history of South Africa and the remnants of its colonial regimes. The series unfolds as a multi-dimensional, visual journey along these historical paths, touching on land dispossession, activism and colonialism.

We Didn’t Choose to be Born Here includes striking portraits of his close relatives, sometimes re-enacting historical scenes, documentary photographs of important landmarks, as well as documents from Makepe’s family archive. Accompanying the visual material is a playlist of music, curated by the artist himself—connecting the work beautifully through the shared love for music.  

We Didn't Choose to be Born Here

Thero Makepe

Thero Makepe created this curated playlist, inspired by his project. Although born and raised in Botswana, his grandfather’s cousin, John Mothopeng, was a jazz musician of the band Batsumi in South Africa during the early 1970s. At the same time, John’s father, Zephania Mothopeng, was a prominent leader of the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) during the struggle against apartheid and was frequently imprisoned for his resistance against white supremacy in South Africa.

The playlist opens with a song from Flying Lotus’ 2010 album Cosmogramma, a cosmic drama concept album dedicated to his mother and inspired by his great-aunt, legendary jazz musician Alice Coltrane and followed by music from Batsumi and John Mothopeng’s second band, Marumo, which infused disco, rock and soul music. Mothopeng’s contemporaries, Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, both feature with their original recordings and as samples in Earl Sweatshirt’s music. 


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