Jojo Abot is one truly inspiring individual. Born in Ghana and based in NYC, her visual, written and musical work is fully charged with emotion, philosophy and social commitment. Her afro-hypno-sonic (a genre she has self-coined) songs talk about giving power to the God within, racial displacement and woman’s rights; three topics she’s been working around during her residency at New York’s New Museum Incubator and has recently showcased at the MoMA.
We caught up with Jojo Abot to talk about last fall’s tour with Lauryn Hill and how to acclimatise to different places when living in-between New York, Accra and Copenhagen…
MusicMap: You recently released the video for ‘Gods Among Men’ and ‘Marching’ (above). How was the experience of filming in South Africa and why did you chose this location?
Jojo Abot: I was already in South Africa for my first Southern Africa tour and was scheduled to leave after 3 weeks but after my tour ended, there was something my spirit was seeking that had not yet been found. I knew my work there was not done and I committed to staying on longer. FYFYA WOTO means New Birth, New Discovery and serves as the basis of my growing philosophy. To be in a space of constant evolution through the resolution and confrontation of personal discomforts is the key to wisdom and inner growth. South Africa caused a special awakening within me as a daughter of the African soil from the Western end of Africa. I felt empowered in my identity and accepted the challenge to speak truth and life into my people and myself. I didn’t choose South Africa, South Africa chose me and prepared me for the journey ahead.
It’s almost been a year since you started your residency at New York’s New Museum incubator, NEW INC. How have you and your art evolved since its beginning?
NEW INC. was a space I wanted to be in, in order to develop my craft and become far better at my mission. As a self taught, multidisciplinary artist, NEW INC. is perhaps the first place in which I have been able to reconcile my various mediums. Challenged by a class of incredibly talented and innovative individuals working at the intersection of tech, art and design pushed me to be dope at what I do. Go hard or go home.
How was meeting Lauryn Hill and the touring experience?
Last fall’s tour was a truly humbling and enlightening experience. Ms Lauryn Hill is a legend in every way. I was honored to be at her feet.
You live between New York, Accra and Copenhagen. Do you have any advice on acclimatising to different places or feeling comfortable with moving around?
Travel and living in other spaces helps me exercise and develop empathy for a world beyond the one that immediately faces me. It shows me that humanity comes first and that our struggles are the same. Travel allows me to truly become one with the world and be blessed by the reaffirmation of love’s power to conquer darkness. It reaffirms the beauty of mankind. I find allies, wisdom and liberation when I travel and I consider myself blessed to be able to occupy so many unique spaces in the world. I believe this realm is for all of us and borders are simply a distraction. It’s me reclaiming my right to the earth in my own unique way. The only advice I can give is this, don’t be a tourist, be human when you travel. Connect with your fellow humans in high and low places. Discard your preconceived notions and expectations. Let life teach you something new so you return never to be the same again.
Your new EP NGIWUNKULUNKULU means I am God, how can we reach our God within?
Through silence, honesty with ourselves and a commitment to growth. The SELF serves as the first point of contact with God. God lies inside and in all things around us. The God in us sees the God in all things. Paying particular attention to our conscience, reconstructing our Ego, developing a language of trust with the SELF, being accountable in our actions, realizing the power of our tongue in speaking life or death, living for something greater than ourselves, extending beyond our personal needs and comforts, these are the gaps and spaces in which you find the God Within. When all is bare and there is no pretense. It is there that we can be reborn, stronger and stronger each day, giving POWER TO THE GOD WITHIN!
Pictures: Kgomotso Neto for FYFYA WOTO