Otobong Nkanga was born in 1974 in Kano, Nigeria and lives and works in Antwerp.
Otobong Nkanga’s drawings, installations, photographs and sculptures variously examine ideas around land and the value connected to natural resources. In her work, activities and performance permeate all kinds of media and motivate photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and video. In many of her works, Nkanga reflects metonymically on the use and cultural value of natural resources, exploring how meaning and function and relative within cultures and revealing different roles and histories for the same products, particularly within the context of the artist’s autobiography and memories.
Nkanga’s interest in minerals has led the artist far and wide, studying the intense mining of the world’s natural resources since the rise of late capitalism. One of the primary means by which the artist’s interest manifests is through the body. In Nkanga’s works on paper and her tapestries, the body becomes a border implicated within the field of mining. Nkanga acts as a cultural anthropologist—tracing the violent means by which contested minerals and objects are exhumed from their natural environments, such as in Nigeria and Namibia—and considers how they are transported to the West. Through her work, the artist re-imagines our relationship to our everyday environment.
For Artes Mundi 8, Nkanga produced an interactive, site-specific installation, Manifest of Strains (2018), that links the west’s everyday luxuries with the core elements and minerals they’re made from. Nkanga’s installation is mirrored by a 7-metre-long tapestry, Double Plot (2018), that literally weaves together our materialism with industrial exploitation and the detrimental environmental impact of mass industry on African communities.
Nkanga was the recipient of the 2015 Yanghyun Prize, the 2017 Belgian Art Prize and the 2019 Sharjah Biennial Prize.
Recent and forthcoming exhibitions: Sharjah Biennial, Sharjah, U.A.E (2019); Otobong Nkanga, Tate St Ives, St Ives (2019); To Dig a Hole That Collapses Again, MCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2018); The Breath from Fertile Grounds, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, Dublin (2017); The Encounter That Took a Part of Me, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2016); Diaoptasia, Tate Modern, London (2015).