Otobong Nkanga (born 1974) is a Nigerian-born visual artist, tapestry maker and performance artist, based in Antwerp, Belgium. 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 49–50)
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]

Early life and education edit

Otobong Nkanga was born in Kano, Nigeria, in 1974 and spent the majority of her childhood in Lagos. Her interest in art and the environment developed during her childhood when she would collect minerals and draw images with mica on the pavements of Lagos.[5] Her mother was a polytechnic teacher. Her father died when she was seven. Her mother then had to provide for Nkanga and her three siblings.[6] During her teenage years her family relocated to Paris, France, due to her mother's work.[7] Nkanga studied art at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife and continued her studies at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.[7] Her mother died in a car accident just when she started her university studies.[6] She then went on to get a master's degree in Performing Arts at Dasarts, Amsterdam, in the Netherlands in 2008.[8] She currently lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium.[9]

Work and career edit

Themes and materials edit

Throughout her work, Nkanga explore themes of neocolonialism, ecological violence, and environmental protection. For example, in The Weight of Scars she depicts the scars of mineral extraction.[10] Also Nkanga's first US survey exhibition, To Dig a Hole That Collapses Again, sends a cautionary message about the world having an insatiable hunger for material resources and doing anything to obtain them.[11] In Pursuit of Bling relays the same message by drawing attention to extractivism and the world's desire to obtain rare minerals and metals.[12] In these ways, there is a site specificity to her work, as she states: "My work is interconnected with the places I've lived. What happens in one affects another. This is true for nature too."[13]

Nkanga uses many forms of media such as drawings, photographs, painting, textiles, videos, and sculptures, however she is mostly known for her installations.[14] As the writer and art critic Devon Van Houten Maldonado observes: "One foundation of her work involves breaking down and separating resources from the earth into piles, sculptures, and symbols – her focus is largely on the gross material."[15] Some signature elements found in her art include "material emotionality," which is the idea that objects can feel, think, and remember; she uses this idea to communicate the experiences of natural materials in her installations.[16] Body fragmentation – such as disembodied arms and legs – is another element that shows up in her works and it implies a lack of sense of a true whole.[11] Using objects from ethnographic collections such as the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt am Main, Nkanga explores, according to the artist, curator and writer Yvette Mutumba, "the relationship between the present context of the artefacts in the museum's Africa collection and their original cultural setting."[17]

Career edit

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,[18] 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,[19] the concepts of identity, cultural specificities are again at the centre of her 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.[20]

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.[21]

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.[21]

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.[22]

Exhibitions edit

  • 2010: Taste of a Stone. Ikǫ, Charlottenborg Copenhagen.
  • 2012: Contained Measures of Shifting States. Tate Modern[23]
  • 2015: Biennale d'art contemporain de Lyon
  • 2016: The Encounter That Took a Part of Me. Nottingham Contemporary
  • 2017: documenta 14, Athens and Kassel
  • 2018: To Dig A Hole That Collapses Again, MCA Chicago
  • 2019: From Where I Stand, Tate St. Ives[24]
  • 2020: There's No Such Thing as Solid Ground, Gropius Bau[25]
  • 2021: Of Cords Curling Into Mountains, Castello di Rivoli[26]
  • 2022: Underneath the Shade We Lay Grounded, Sint-Janshospitaal Brugge.

References edit

  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. ^ Clarke, Chris (February 2018). "Otobong Nkanga: The Breath from Fertile Grounds". Art Monthly (413): 35.
  6. ^ a b Gipson, Ferren (2022). Women's work: from feminine arts to feminist art. London: Frances Lincoln. ISBN 978-0-7112-6465-6.
  7. ^ a b Pahl, Katrin (2021). "Improbable Intimacy: Otobong Nkanga's Grafts and Aggregates". Theory & Event. 24 (1): 240–267. doi:10.1353/tae.2021.0009. ISSN 1092-311X. S2CID 234243538.
  8. ^ studio, Curator. "Otobong Nkanga". www.insituparis.fr (in French). Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  9. ^ "Otobong Nkanga | Visual Artist". Otobong Nkanga. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  10. ^ Samudzi, Zoé (January–February 2021). "The Paradox of Plenty". Art in America. 109 (1): 18–20.
  11. ^ a b DeLand, Lauren (October 2018). "Otobong Nkanga". Art in America. 106 (9): 118–119.
  12. ^ "Afterall - Blue, Bling: On Extractivism". Afterall. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  13. ^ "Otobong Nkanga". ocula.com. 16 November 2021. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  14. ^ studio, Curator. "Otobong Nkanga". www.insituparis.fr (in French). Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  15. ^ Van Houten Maldonado, Devon (20 July 2018). "Imagining a Reconciliatory Relationship with the Earth". Hyperallergic.
  16. ^ Pahl, Katrin (2021). "Improbable Intimacy: Otobong Nkanga's Grafts and Aggregates". Theory & Event. 24 (1): 240–267. doi:10.1353/tae.2021.0009. ISSN 1092-311X. S2CID 234243538.
  17. ^ Mutumba, Yvette (2014). "Otobong Nkanga: Nothing Is Like It Seems, Everything Is Evidence". Afterall.
  18. ^ Meyer-Hermann, Eva (19..-....). (2008). Thames & Hudson (ed.). Allan Kaprow : art as life. Royaume-Uni. ISBN 9780892368907.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Elderton, Louisa (October 2014). "Interview with Otobong Nkanga". The White Review.
  20. ^ 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
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "Across the Board". www.tate.org.uk.
  23. ^ 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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  24. ^ "Otobong Nkanga: From Where I Stand", Tate St. ives Exhibition.
  25. ^ "Otobong Nkanga: There's No Such Thing as Solid Ground", Gropius Bau. Exhibition.
  26. ^ "Otobong Nkanga. Corde che si arricciano attorno alle montagne". Castello di Rivoli. 2021.

External links edit