Max Rameau and Umoja Village Invade Art Basel

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Max Rameau (bottom right) at the site of the original Umoja Village circa 2006.
You can say Max Rameau is a social activist trendsetter. Long before the Occupy Wall Street movement was even an idea, Rameau was leading the charge for the disenfranchised 99 percent with his Take Back The Land organization. Five years ago, Rameau came up with the brilliant idea of organizing dozens of homeless men to build a camp at NW 62nd Street and 17th Avenue, site of a barren patch of city owned land for a failed housing project.

He named the place Umoja Village, after the Swahili word for unity, and found a loophole in city law that prevented Miami officials from kicking the men out.Yesterday, an artistic installation honoring Umoja Village took over a public space in Miami Beach for Art Basel.

Renowned socially conscious artists Andrea Bowers and Olga Koumoundouros have erected a full scale and fully functional replica of the shantytown at Collins Avenue and 21st Street. The original Umoja Village mysteriously burned down six months after Rameau and his band of homeless folks built it.

The installation also marks the return of Rameau to Miami. He left the city last year for Washington D.C. to take his firebrand activism national. Tonight at 7, Rameau will participate in a two-hour multimedia presentation about the Take Back the Land and Occupy movements.

The project, which will be on display through Sunday, was done in collaboration with the Bass Museum and Art Basel's Art Public program.

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