Asmaa Jama and Gouled Ahmed. Except this time nothing returns from the ashes, 2023. Film Still.

Asmaa Jama and Gouled Ahmed

Except this time nothing returns from the ashes

June 14th—September 1st, 2024
Thursday—Sunday, 11AM—5PM
Free and open to the public. No prior registration required.
The Africa Center at Aliko Dangote Hall
1280 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10029 United States (map)

The Africa Center is pleased to present Except this time nothing returns from the ashes, the North-American premiere of the short film and exhibition by East African artists Asmaa Jama (United Kingdom/Somalia) and Gouled Ahmed (Ethiopia).

Inspired by African photography masters such as Samuel Fosso, Malick Sidibé and Seidou Keïta, paralleled with an exploration of Jama and Ahmed’s personal family archives, Except this time nothing returns from the ashes invites viewers through a journey of self-expression, that is at once political and historical, fictional and intimate. Through a poetic narrative, spoken word and music, the work investigates how personal identity and collective narratives are both constructed and corrupted by technologies that determine who is remembered and who is forgotten as the historical canon is formed.

Shot on location in Addis Ababa in 2022, the film follows the ghostly, glitchy presences of individuals who exist in the margins of a city. Developed from Jama and Ahmed’s interactions with their families’ photographic collections and archives, Except this time nothing returns from the ashes opens a portal to memory for those who have been systematically rendered peripheral. For the artists, self-portraiture becomes an act of resisting erasure, demonstrating the power of photography and the archive to remember and to force retrospection and reflection. 

Except this time nothing returns from the ashes is presented in an octagonal structure, an interpretation of the photo studio, creating a space that insulates the viewer. The patterns and colors are an homage to those found across East Africa’s built environment, many of which are also found in the film, questioning Jama and Ahmed’s personal desire for resurrection, memorialization, and a tangible inheritance. 

In the back perimeter, the installation Hold my sight comprises a text painted in black directly on the wall underlined with charcoal powder. This is a more direct reference to ashes, through which Jama explores the notion of aftermath and excavating the past through ruins.

Except this time nothing returns from the ashes was co-commissioned by and first presented at Spike Island, Bristol, United Kingdom in 2023, with the support of Arts Council England. The presentation at The Africa Center is co-produced with Zarina Rossheart, and made possible with the support of General Electric. 


Related Program

Ash is our inheritance

Tuesday, June 18, 8PM—9PM

Join us for an evening of experimental sound and spoken word performances curated by Asmaa Jama in response to Except this time nothing returns from the ashes, and featuring guest artists Ladan Osman, Caleb Giles, Samiya Bashir, and keiyaA.

This program is part of the annual Museum Mile Festival, a celebration of art and culture at New York City cultural institutions along Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile. It is also part of The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist; to learn more about this opera and city-wide festival of community events, please visit ritualofbreath.org and follow on Instagram: @theritualofbreath.


About Asmaa Jama
Asmaa Jama is a Somali multidisciplinary artist, writer and filmmaker based in Bristol, UK. Their work is interested in myth, movement and migration. Asmaa’s first film work Before We Disappear (2021), was an interactive moving image piece commissioned by BBC Arts, followed by The Season of Burning Things (2021), in collaboration with Gouled Ahmed, commissioned by the Bristol Old Vic (2021) and Except this time nothing returns from the ashes (2022), commissioned by Spike Island. Their work has also been presented at the 18th and 17th Venice Architecture Biennale in collaboration with Huda Tayob’s Index of Edges (2023) and the Goethe Institute and Theatre Neumarkt’s 100 Ways to Say We (2021), and was the official selection at Blackstar Film Festival, Aesthetica Film Festival, Sharjah Film Platform 5 (2022) and the New Cinema Awards at Berwick Film Festival (2024). Jama’s writing has been commissioned by Jerwood Arts, Hayward Gallery, Arnolfini and Ifa Gallery, Berlin. Their written works have been published in places like The Poetry Review, Nataal and Magma. In theatre, they have written for, and are performing in, Dorothee Munyaneza’s Mailles, and have written for Radouan Mrziga’s Akal and Libya.  Jama was commended for the Brunel African Poetry Prize (2022); and shortlisted for the New Poets Prize (2022) Queen Mary Wasafiri Writing Prize (2021); James Berry Poetry Prize (2021); To Speak Europe in Other Languages prize (2020), and longlisted for National Poetry Competition (2021) and is a Cave Canem Fellow.  Jama is the winner of the Art X Access Prize (2023) and will undertake a residency at G.A.S, Lagos. Jama was also formerly an artist-in-residence at Somerset House Studios, London (2022), Callies, Berlin (2022), School for Sonic Memory, Mucem/Onassis Stegi (2022) and In Between Time Festival, Bristol (2019).

About Gouled Ahmed

Gouled Ahmed (b.1992) is an Addis Ababa-based Somali visual artist, costume designer, and director. Their work explores the themes of memory and belonging through the lens of self-portrait photography, film, and textile art. Gouled’s work deals with the polyphonic erasures that exist in the Horn of Africa, the materiality of dispossession, what it means to tangibly exist outside of hegemonic social imaginaries. Using ceremonial mask making, veils and headpieces they attempt to contend with anti-recognition garments as technologies of resistance. Gouled’s work is interested in the notion of futurity and is heavily aimed at envisioning new and equitable aesthetic and sartorial futures for the Horn of Africa. Gouled is a recipient of the African Cultural Fund’s inaugural grant (2019) , the Prince Claus Fund’s inaugural Seed Award (2021), the Sharjah Art Foundation’s Production Programme Grant (2022) & The Graham Foundations Research Grant (2023) in collaboration with Asmaa Jama.

Gouled’s self-portrait photography work has been exhibited widely at institutions such as the V&A Museum,London (2022), The Brooklyn Museum (2022), the Portland Museum of Art (2023), The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Australia (2024), Lahti Biennial, Finland (2023) Addis Fine Art Gallery, Addis Ababa Ethiopia (2022) Alliance Ethio-Francaise, Addis Ababa (2021), Northstar Church of the Arts, Durham North Carolina (2019); ZOMA Museum, Addis Ababa (2018) & at the Africa Center, London (2017). Their work will be presented at the 15th Dak’art biennial in May of 2024 in a group show entitled ‘Encounters’ curated by Dr Jareh Das as part of Kehinde Wiley’s Black Rock Senegal program. Their collaborative film practice with poet & filmmaker Asmaa Jama on the film ‘The Season of Burning Things’ commissioned by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre has been screened at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale in collaboration with the Goethe Institut and Theater Neumarkt’s 100 Ways to Say We program. It has subsequently been screened at Oscar qualifying Black Star film festival (2022), the Sharjah Film Platform 5 (2022), BAFTA qualifying Aesthetica film festival (2022), the Arab film festival (2022) at the Barbican Center in London & at Art basel Hong Kong (2023). Their latest collaborative film ‘Except this Time Nothing Returns From the Ashes’ commissioned by Spike Island Gallery was exhibited at the gallery along with a multimedia exhibition in the gallery space. 


Media Contacts: 
The Africa Center press@theafricacenter.org 

Exhibitions and Installations