Otobong Nkanga

Otobong Nkanga (born 1974) is a Nigerian-born visual artist and performance artist, based in Antwerp. In 2015 she won the Yanghyun Prize.[1][2]

Otobong Nkanga
An exhibition gallery, with white pebbles on the floor, five images on slabs and a small block of sandstone to the back.
Taste of a Stone. Ikǫ
Born1974 (age 46–47)
AwardsYanghyun Prize

In her work she explores the social and topographical changes of her environment, observes their inherent complexities and understands how resources such as soil and earth, and their potential values, are subject to regional and cultural analysis. Her work has been featured in many institutions including the Tate Modern the KW Institute (Berlin), the Stedelijk Museum and the biennale of Sharjah.[3] She also took part in the 20th Biennale of Sydney.[4]


Otobong Nkanga was born in Kano, Nigeria, in 1974.

Her first personal exhibition, CLASSICISM & BEYOND, took place in 2002 in the non-profit organization, Project Row Houses in Houston. In 2007 to 2008, in response to the work Baggage (1972 – 2007/2008) by American artist Allan Kaprow,[5] Nkanga has designed a performance for the Kunsthalle Bern. The initial work that was based on issues of movement of goods from one point of the planet to another, Nkanga introduces a post-colonial dimension. As evidenced the artist in an interview,[6] the concepts of identity, cultural specificities are again at the centre of his artistic gesture of re-appropriation.

Also, in 2008, the project Contained measures of Land used soil both as a symbol of the territory and competition and conflict. A year later, during her residence at Pointe-Noire, in the Congo, she has collected eight different colours of Earth. Pointe-Noire was colonized by the Portuguese and the French. Art critic Philippe Pirotte wrote that Nkanga comes to create a kind of vehicle for the presentation and the transportation which does not define the use value in an era where everyone is obsessed with the transformation of natural tools resources which serve humanity.[7]

Her project, Contained Measures of Tangible Memories that started in 2010, from her first trip to the Morocco, she explores the practices of dyeing. She essentially transform objects in circulation to objets d'art.[8]

In 2012, she has created a device for a performance, or rather an installation entitled Contained Measures of Kolanut with two photos, one of a tree called adekola and one with two girls imitating trees. Nkanga explained that the Kola tree is important for its culture and is a symbol of spirituality to its culture. After she suggested eating a brown nut (Cola acuminata) or a cream (Cola nitida). These elements existed for preparing a conversation. This type of performance can last for hours and requires a lot of concentration.[8]

The same year, she proposed a performance for the Tate programme "Politics of Representation" in which she invited visitors to explore the concepts of identity, perception, and memory.[9]


  • 2010: Kunsthal Charlottenborg Copenhagen. Taste of a Stone. Ikǫ
  • 2012: Contained Measures of Shifting States. Tate Modern[10]
  • 2015: Biennale d'art contemporain de Lyon
  • 2016: The Encounter That Took a Part of Me. Nottingham Contemporary
  • 2017: documenta 14, Athens and Kassel


  1. ^ "Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga wins Yanghyun art prize". The Korea Herald. 12 November 2015.
  2. ^ Evelyn Okakwu (13 November 2015). "Nigerian artist emerges first African winner of Korean award". Premium Times Nigeria.
  3. ^ "Otobong Nkanga". contemporaryand.com. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  4. ^ "20th Biennale of Sydney, Carriageworks". The Guardian. 15 January 2016.
  5. ^ Meyer-Hermann, Eva (19..-....). (2008), Thames & Hudson (ed.), Allan Kaprow : art as life, Royaume-Uni, ISBN 9780892368907
  7. ^ Virginie Bobin (2007), "Participation: A Legacy of Allan Kaprow, P. Pirotte", An Invention of Allan Kaprow for the Present Moment, Kunsthalle Bern, pp. 9–17, ISBN 978-3857801501
  8. ^ a b Monika Szewczyk (Autumn–Winter 2014). "Exchange and Some Change: The imaginative Economies of Otobong Nkanga". Afterall, A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry (37): 41.
  9. ^ "Across the Board". www.tate.org.uk.
  10. ^ Bosah, Chukwuemeka (2017). The art of Nigerian women. Okediji, Moyosore B. (Moyosore Benjamin). New Albany, Ohio. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-9969084-5-0. OCLC 965603634.

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