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Lonnie Holley with Special Guests: I Snuck Off the Slave Ship

Sunday 2 June 2019, 5–8pm
LOOP Project Space and Bar
23 Meyers Place, Melbourne
Tickets: $11 + BF
Bookings essential at: Humanitix

MUMA and Liquid Architecture presented an unforgettable evening with African-American visual artist, musician and filmmaker Lonnie Holley, with special guests Sista Zai Zanda and Nelson Patten. The evening included the Australian premiere of Holley’s film I Snuck Off the Slave Ship (directed by Lonnie Holley and Cyrus Moussavi, USA, 2018, 20 minutes) following its Sundance Film Festival debut that year.

After the screening, Holley was in conversation with curator, storyteller and educator Sista Zai Zanda, followed by a performance by Nelson Patten: the New York City and Atlanta-based instrumental duo of Dave Nelson and Marlon Patton, who toured Australia as Holley’s backing band.

Lonnie Holley is one of the American South’s preeminent self-taught artists. Born in 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama he lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. His practice extends from assemblage, painting and sculpture to music, and his artworks are held in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, New York, among others. In 2012 at sixty-two years of age, he began releasing and performing his own music. Entirely improvised and impossible to categorise, his free-flowing compositions include stream-of-consciousness lyrics delivered in his deeply expressive, world-worn bellow. He has since worked with such figures as Bon Iver, Bill Callahan, the Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective.

Like the song that inspired it, I Snuck Off the Slave Ship is a metaphor for African American transcendence. Holley quilts together a lifetime of turbulence and suffering marked by constant struggle, from abject poverty to jail time. Across his songs, he lays bare his intensely personal inner world, touching on issues such as Black Lives Matter and contemporary American politics.

Sista Zai Zanda is a storyteller, educator and curator of the Pan Afrikan Poets Cafe—an Afro-Literary matinée of beats, performance and poetry. She has worked as a Youth Zone consultant for one of Africa’s top 10 international arts festivals, hosted the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival Opening Night Gala and is engaged as an Artistic Associate with Melbourne’s Due West Festival.

Nelson Patton is the New York City and Atlanta-based instrumental duo of Dave Nelson and Marlon Patton. Inspired by ambient minimalism, polyrhythmic composition, and orchestral sonorities, the duo layers trombone, drums, and electronics to create a rich palette of improvised textures that evolve over time, creating a transportive experience that often swells to dramatic crescendos of orchestral fanfare. Nelson Patton has released an EP as well as a full-length album featuring Lonnie Holley on vocals, and the duo contributed to Lonnie Holley’s critically acclaimed 2018 LP Mith. In addition, the duo often serves as Lonnie’s touring band.


Lonnie Holley was presented at LOOP in arrangement with Mistletone and Dead End Film Festival.

Image: Lonnie Holley performing I Snuck Off the Slave Ship, LOOP Bar, Melbourne, 2019. Photo: Kate Barber