The Artistic Giant that is Mokgosi 

  • Titled “Bread, Butter and Power (2018),” works by the Botswana-born artist are currently on display alongside works of other artist of stature at the “Giants” exhibition by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats in New York


The Brooklyn Museum in New York is dominated by a sequence of large scale paintings titled “Bread, Butter and Power (2018)” by Francistown-born artist Meleko Mokgosi.

The vivid series is part of the landmark exhibition titled “Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys” that opened on 10 February and will be on view until 7 July 2024.

Curated by the music couple Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, the exhibition offers a unique opportunity to witness the diversity and talent within African American art.


“We want you to feel connected and emotional and really discover artists that maybe you know of, maybe you don’t know of, maybe you’re seeing for the first time,” said Keys in a video at the exhibition. “We want you to see the giants on whose shoulders we stand.”

According to the couple, the name “Giant” refers to the featured artists as extraordinary people, the monumental size of the pieces on display and wanting

to inspire each and every individual to be giant collectors of their own culture.

In the displayed colossal series of the paintings, Mokgosi utilises the scale and visual splendour of 18th Century European history paintings to discuss gender politics and power structures in southern Africa.

Bread, Butter and Power 

Reads a description at the gallery: “The paintings scenes shift from exterior to interior, individual to group shots, each bearing iconography related to inequitable gendered divisions of labour and the need to consider local contexts when confronting societal issues.

“Viewed in sequence, the series speaks to the intersections of colonialism, nationalism, class and democracy in Botswana and neighbouring countries.”

The pieces on the wall depict images that most Batswana have seen and lived: they are of school children in their school uniform, the old school hairstyles of young girls, the porcelain dogs that used to be displayed on the dresser, Herero women in their traditional attire and the famous portrait of Mother and Child that was found in most Botswana homes.

The exhibition features 37 artists and over 100 artworks from the music couple’s impressive art collection.