Otobong Nkanga (NG/BE)
Born 1974, Kano, Nigeria
Lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium
Otobong Nkanga’s drawings, installations, photographs, sculptures and performances examine the social and topographical relationship with our everyday environment. By exploring the notion of land as a place of non-belonging, Nkanga provides an alternative meaning to the social ideas of identity. Paradoxically, she brings to light the memories and historical impacts provoked by humans and nature. She lays out the inherent complexities of resources like soil and earth and their potential values in order to provoke narratives and stories connected to land.
Employing sculpture, drawing and performance, but also writing, publishing and pedagogical formats, Nkanga looks at the notion of ‘land’ as a geological and discursive formation, often taking as her starting point the systems and procedures by which raw materials are locally dug up, technologically processed and globally circulated. From there she follows the threads that intertwine ores, material culture and the construction of desire with the redistribution of power and knowledge.
Nkanga raises questions about the historical structure of a place, both physically and metaphysically. She often refers to the different objects and elements in her work as constellations. Constellations are imaginary patterns or diagrams which allow her to chart the intersections of nature, politics, colonialist economies and different geographies and histories.
Otobong Nkanga’s Carved to Flow project (Documenta 14) and Carved to Flow Foundation was conceived as a support structure actively embedded in the social sphere. Operating with the proceeds from the sales of the O8 Black Stone soaps, the Foundation (carvedtoflow.com) will realise its founding ambition to achieve self-sustenance. The Carved to Flow Foundation will support the activities of two spaces it has set up (in Athens and Nigeria) which will serve as bases for research and exchange on material entanglements, structured around exhibitions, workshops, and events. In parallel to its activities in Athens and Nigeria, the Foundation will contribute to foreign initiatives spearheaded by people in its network.
Otobong Nkanga’s most recent solo exhibitions include Of Cords Curling around Mountains, Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli, Italy (2021-2022), When Looking Across the Sea, do you Dream?, La Villa Arson, Nice, France (2021), Uncertain Where the Next Wind Blows, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, Norway (2020-2021), There's No Such Thing as Solid Ground, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2020), From Where I Stand, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), Middlesbrough (2020-2021), Acts at the Crossroads, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town (2019), From Where I Stand, Tate St. Ives, St. Ives (2019), A Lapse, a Stain, a Fall, Ar/geKunst, Bolzano (2018); To Dig a Hole that Collapses Again, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago (2018); Voices (Wetin You Go Do?), The Tanks at Tate Modern, Blavatnik Building, London (2017); The Breath from Fertile Grounds, Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin (2017); The Encounter That Took a Part of Me, Kunsthal Aarhus, Aarhus (2017);The Encounter That Took a Part of Me, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2016); MATRIX 260, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) (2016); Landversation Beirut, Beirut Art Center (2016); Diaoptasia, Tate Modern, London (2015); Bruises and Lustre, Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA), Antwerpen (2015); Comot Your Eyes Make I Borrow You Mine, Kadist Art Foundation, Paris (2015); Crumbling Through Powdery Air, Portikus, Frankfurt (2015).
Her work has been included in institutional group exhibitions as the 58th Venice Biennial, Venice; Black Refractions, San Francisco CA, Charleston SC, Kalamazoo MI, Northampton MA, Seattle WA, Salt Lake City UT (2019-2020); Hand Drawn, Action Packed, Hayward Gallery Touring, St. Albans, Wolverhampton, Glasgow, Swansea (2018-2019); Laid Bare in the Landscape, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno (2018); Cosmogonies, au gré des éléments, Musée d'art moderne et d'art contemporain (MAMAC), Nice (2018) ; General Rehearsal, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow (2018); Documenta 14, Athens / Kassel (2017); I am a native foreigner, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2017); Take Me (I’m Yours), Pirelli Hangarbicocca, Milan (2017); Life Itself, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2016); Museum on/off, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2016); 13th Biennale de Lyon, La vie moderne, Lyon (2015); 31st Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo (2014), 8th Berlin Biennale, Berlin (2014).
Additionally, works have been acquired by public collections as Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA), Antwerpen; Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Turin; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam; Museum Arnhem, Arnhem; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Studio Museum Harlem, New York; Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt; Nevada Museum of Art (NMA), Reno; Queensland Art Gallery - Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland; Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Mu.ZEE, Oostende; Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP), Paris; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Rabo Art Collection, Utrecht; Robeco Art Collection, Rotterdam; Fondation Sindika Dokolo, Luanda; AkzoNobel Art Foundation, Amsterdam; Société Générale Art Collection, Paris; FRAC Ile-de-France, Paris; FRAC Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur (PACA), Marseille; FRAC Lorraine, Metz; FRAC Corse, Corse.
Otobong Nkanga is the 1st recipient of the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award (Norway, 2019), and was awarded the Peter Weiss Award (Bochum, 2019), the Special Mention Award of the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (Venice, 2019), the 2019 Sharjah Biennial Award (Sharjah, 2019), the Flemish Cultural Award for Visual Arts - Ultima (Brussels, 2019), the Belgian Art Prize (Brussels, 2017) and the 8th Yanghyun Art Prize (Seoul, 2015).
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