The Tourist, 2023, tells the story of Zanzibar, China, and Ali Sultan Issa, a man at the centre of an uneasy marriage between Afrofuturism and Sinofuturism. It explores a shifting geopolitical atmosphere from the cosmopolitan optimism of the "Bandung Spirit" declaration, signed at the first large-scale Afro-Asian Conference in 1955, to the uncertain alignments of today.
Issa and his comrades sparked a diplomatic romance with communist China in the 1960s and sought to build post-revolutionary Zanzibar in the image of the People’s Republic of China. Zanzibar presented itself as China's revolutionary pupil, and a spark from which pan-African socialism would flourish.
Issa was not only a leading Zanzibari socialist, but would also become its capitalist pioneer. In his "second revolution," he opened the island's first resort hotel, spearheading the foreign investment which would later define its fortunes as a tropical tourist paradise.
Filmed, written and edited by
Gary Zhexi Zhang
Original music by
G. Thomas Burgess
Aishe Sultan Issa
With additional thanks to
Gary Zhexi Zhang, The Tourist (2023), is commissioned by the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU), Toronto and curated by Clara Halpern, assistant curator, exhibitions, through their digital art stream.
Special thanks to Gary Zhexi Zhang for this artwork and for participating in …this is not made of language but energy, AGYU’s series of conversations related to born-digital art, and for inviting us to co-publish Catastrophe Time! with Strange Attractor Press.
This commission is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts through its Digital Strategy Fund.
AGYU acknowledges our team, in particular Michael Maranda, assistant curator, publications; Felicia Mings, curator; and Jenifer Papararo curator/director for supporting the realization of this project. We are thankful to filmmaker Zach Jama for speaking at the launch event on September 29, 2023, held offsite at Small World Music, Toronto, and to event Media Partners InterAccess and Images Festival.
The Tourist is commissioned through the AGYU’s digital art stream. This year’s commissions also include Dele Adeyemo’s From Longhouse to Highrise: The Course of Empire, curated by Felicia Mings.