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Otobong Nkanga (born in Kano, Nigeria in 1974) creates works based on extensive research in diverse media. Her drawings, installations, photographs, videos and sculptures variously examine ideas around land and the value connected to its resources. She often utilises body and voice in order to articulate her own reactions to existing structures and their implications. She finds inspiration for this in observing social and topographic changes in her surroundings and the influences that arise from these. As a human trace that testifies of ways of living and environmental issues, architecture and landscape act as a sounding board for narration and “the performative”.

In many of her works Nkanga reflects metonymically on the use and cultural value of natural resources, exploring how meaning and function are relative within cultures and revealing different roles and histories for the same products, particularly within the context of the artist’s autobiography and memories.

Nkangas installation-performance "Contained Measures of Shifting States", was staged in November 2012 at The Tanks, Tate Modern, launching the project Across the Board, an experimental and multidisciplinary platform which subsequently travelled to the African cities of Accra, Douala, and Lagos. In her performance, Nkanga invited viewers to engage in a dialogue on the intangibility of identity, memory, or perception, observing how these change when presented via a strategy of specific arrangement and narration.
For her contribution to the exhibition “Objekt Atlas – Feldforschung im Museum” (Object Atlas – Field Research in the Museum), shown in the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt in 2012, Nkanga spent several weeks in the Weltkulturen Labor doing research on the historical objects (such as weapons, jewellery and currency) found in the collection, coming mainly from Western, Central and Southern Africa. These different metal objects had been used as a currency by previous generations, but have vanished from general perception today. Nkanga’s photographic documentation of these objects served as the basis for posters that she had designed and executed in Lagos. She presented these posters in the museum in Frankfurt along with a selection from the holdings of the collection. Before the backdrop of the fact that posters continue to fulfil the function of communicating everyday knowledge and information in Nigeria, such as, for example, in schools, to the artist, this seems to suggest the subversive idea that posters and museums, as cultural institutions, might represent a comparable currency.By this means, the artist transfers not only the history and significance of the objects into the twenty-first century in an unsentimental manner. Nkanga’s works instead reflect different aspects of merging, of exchange and of the migration of material cultures and cultural contexts.


Events by DAAD
Glimmer, performance

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