Otobong Nkanga | Artist Profile

Otobong Nkanga

b.1974, British-Nigerian

Otobong Nkanga’s work foregrounds ecological themes of relationality and becoming through a distilled poetics of entanglement. Her multidisciplinary practice examines the complex social, political, and material relationships between bodies, territories, minerals and the earth. Unsettling the divisions between minimal and conceptual or sensual and surreal approaches, the artist’s research-based practice constellates humans and landscapes, organic and non-organic matter, Global North and Global South economies. Through drawing, installation, performance, photography, textiles and sculpture, Nkanga creates pathways translating the natural world – its plants, herbs, minerals and living organisms – into networked, aggregated situations evoking memory, labour, home, care, ownership, emotion, touch and smell. In addition to producing distinct and rigorously researched art objects, Nkanga has consistently broken new ground through her ambitious, long-term projects. Landversation, which toured four cities from 2014-20, puts the artist and visiting publics in dialogue with multiple local communities who have deep connections to the land; while The Carved to Flow Foundation, established in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria, on the occasion of a series of performances held at documenta 14 in 2017, is a platform dedicated to researching material cultures and fostering shared experimentation and exchange locally. These projects, and Nkanga’s practice more broadly, evidence a transhistorical and cross-cultural diversity of influences, pointing to the planetary scale of her artistic investigations. Reframing people and objects as compressed multitudes and as entities that come into being in relation to other entities, Nkanga deftly weaves insights from geology, botany, poetry and non-Western knowledge systems. Her works’ allusions to the reparative potentials of connectivity urgently gesture towards the possibility of more liveable futures. Otobong Nkanga (born 1974, Kano, Nigeria) lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium. She studied at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife-Ife, Nigeria; the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and did her masters in the Performing Arts at DasArts, Advanced Research in Theatre and Dance studies in Amsterdam. Nkanga has been an artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam in 2002-04, DAAD Berlin programme in 2013-14 and at the Martin Gropius-Bau in 2019.