Lisson Gallery

Otobong Nkanga

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.

Her most recent solo exhibitions include: Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges, Belgium (2022); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2021); Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin, Italy (2021-2022); Villa Arson, Nice, France (2021); Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, Norway (2020-2021);  Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany (2020); MIMA, Middlesbrough, UK (2020); Tate St Ives, UK (2019); Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa (2019); Ar/ge kunst Galleria Museo, Bolzano, Italy (2018); MCA Chicago, US (2018); Kunsthal Aarhus, Denmark (2017); Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2016); Beirut Art Center, Lebanon (2016); Tate Modern, London, UK (2015); Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany (2015); Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Schiedam, The Netherlands (2015); Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany (2015), Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, Belgium (2015); Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, France (2015).

Nkanga was given the Special Mention Award at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Italy, 2019 and won the 2017 Belgium Art Prize. Other notable awards include the Peter-Weiss-Preis, Sharjah Biennial Prize, the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award, the Flemish Cultural Award for Visual Arts - Ultima and the Yanghyun Prize.

Recent, current and forthcoming projects

'Otobong Nkanga: Craving for Southern Light',  IVAM, València, Spain (13 July 2023 – 7 Jan 2024)

'Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis', Hayward Gallery, London, UK (21 June –⁠ 3 Sep 2023)

'Otobong Nkanga: Gently Basking in Debris', Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN, USA (3 February – 23 April 2023)

'Busan Biennial 2022 – We, on the Rising Wave', Busan, South Korea (3 September – 6 November 2022)

'Underneath the Shade We Lay Grounded. Otobong Nkanga', Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges, Belgium (25 June – 25 September 2022)

 

Silent Force, Red Caress

Otobong Nkanga
Silent Force, Red Caress

2022
Hand tufted carpet, hand-dyed wool, glass, wood, handmade cords, various elements


Installation view Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges, 2022
Photo Dominique Provost

Alignment

Otobong Nkanga
Alignment

2022
Installation: handmade ropes, 3 Murano glass spheres, tree trunk, metal connectors, clay granules, lava stones, activated carbon, soil, plants


Installation view Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterloo, 2022
Photo Marjon Gemmeke

Unearthed – Sunlight

Otobong Nkanga
Unearthed – Sunlight

2021
Woven textile (yarns: trevira, sidero, polyester, multifilament, merino wool, superwash, linnen, mohair, econyl, fulgaren, elirex, viscose), remembrance plants


Installation view Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, 2021-2022
Photo Markus Tretter

Unearthed – Sunlight

Otobong Nkanga
Unearthed – Sunlight

2021
Woven textile (yarns: trevira, sidero, polyester, multifilament, merino wool, superwash, linnen, mohair, econyl, fulgaren, elirex, viscose), remembrance plants


Installation view Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, 2021-2022
Photo Markus Tretter

Unearthed – Abyss

Otobong Nkanga
Unearthed – Abyss

2021
Woven textile (yarns: trevira, multifilament, outdoor polypropylene, techno, elirex, mohair, monofilament, fulgaren, viscose)


Installation view Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, 2021-2022
Photo Markus Tretter

Lined with shivers sprouting from the rock

Otobong Nkanga
Lined with shivers sprouting from the rock

2021
Wool carpet, cotton hand-knotted ropes, weeping beech wood sculptures, hand-blown glass sculptures, clay sculptures, metal, video, organic materials and various oils

Installation view Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli-Torino, 2021
Photo Antonio Maniscalco

25 drawings from 1997-2015

Otobong Nkanga
25 drawings from 1997-2015


Installation view Villa Arson, Nice, 2021
Photo Jean-Christophe Lett

Taste of a Stone

Otobong Nkanga
Taste of a Stone

2010/20
Marble pebbles, Hedera Helix, Sempervivum arachnoideum, Sedum acre, Sedum rupestre, Linaria alpina, Tillandsia multiflora, Tillandsia straminea, Tillandsia aeranthos clump, reindeer moss, boulders, gneiss, granite, Iceland lichen, inkjet prints on Galala limestone slabs


Kolanut Tales – Dismembered, 2016
Woven textile (yarns: polyester, organic cotton, linen, acryl)


Installation view Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2020
Photo Luca Girardini

Veins Aligned

Otobong Nkanga
Veins Aligned

2018
Murano glass, paint, blast furnace fusion, wet sandblasted Lasa Marble Venato Fior di Melo®, wooden plinth


A Lapse, A Stain, A Fall
2018
Poem engraved on Nero Marquina marble


Installation view La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, 2019
Photo Andrea Avezzu

Extraction

Otobong Nkanga
Extraction

2019
acrylic on paper

 

Reconciliation
2018
acrylic and crayon on paper

 

Flint
2019
acrylic on paper


Installation view La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, 2019
Photo Francesco Galli Viterbo

Taste of a Stone

Otobong Nkanga
Taste of a Stone

2010/19
Namib Red pebbles, Echeveria Lehani, Crassula muscosa, Plectranthus variegated, Gasteria Barberton, Plectranthus Strigosus Blue, reindeer moss, various rocks from Cape Town area, inkjet prints on Galala limestone slabs

 

Kolanut Tales – Dismembered
2016
Woven textile (yarns: polyester, organic cotton, linen, acryl)


Installation view Zeitz MOCAA – Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, 2019

Aging Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past

Otobong Nkanga
Aging Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past

2019
(with Emeka Ogboh), multi channel sound installation, sculpture, poetry on light installation

 

Installation view at Sharjah Biennial 14, 2019
Photo Shanavas Jamaluddin

Constellation to Appease

Otobong Nkanga
Constellation to Appease

2019
Performance by Otobong Nkanga, Sanni Pyhaenniska, Sophia Rosenthal, and Emma Tweedie, in collaboration with local Cornish Bards Delia and Dave Brotherton, at Tate St Ives and Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, September 21, 2019


Photo Oliver Cowling

Double Plot

Otobong Nkanga
Double Plot

2018
Woven textile (yarns: viscose, polyester, organic cotton, cashwool, acryl), inkjet prints on 5 laser-cut forex plates


Installation view Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterloo, 2022
Photo Marjon Gemmeke

Carved to Flow: Laboratory

Otobong Nkanga
Carved to Flow: Laboratory

2017
Laboratory installation and O8 natural soap workshop during documenta 14, Athens, 2017

Taste of a Stone – Ikọ

Otobong Nkanga
Taste of a Stone – Ikọ

2016
Polar white pebbles, sand-colored limestone, red St. Bees sandstone, Reindeer moss, Ficus pumilla variegata, Muehlenbeckia complexa, Tillandsia aeranthos, Tillandsia usneoides, Tillandsia straminea, Tillandsia flexuosa, inkjet prints on limestone slabs


Kolanut Tales – Dismembered
2016
Woven textile (yarns: polyester, organic cotton, linen, acryl)


Installation view Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, 2016-2017
Photo Stuart Whipps

Steel to Rust – Meltdown

Otobong Nkanga
Steel to Rust – Meltdown

2016
Woven textile (yarns: linen, polyester, merino wool, viscose, rubber Verdi, reflective yarn) mounted on aluminum frames, two parts

Solid Maneuvers
2015
Various metals, forex plates, acrylic, tar, salt, makeup, vermiculite, mix of black and onyx ground granite

Installation view Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, 2020-2021
Photo Øystein Thorvaldsen

Solid Maneuvers

Otobong Nkanga
Solid Maneuvers

2015/20
Performance by Otobong Nkanga who sings, tells stories, and performs different gestures related to industrial processes, physical labor, and the limits of human productivity

 

Performance at Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2020

Solid Maneuvers

Otobong Nkanga
Solid Maneuvers

2015
Various metals, forex plates, acrylic, tar, salt, makeup, vermiculite


Installation view Portikus, Frankfurt, 2015
Photo Helena Schlichting

The Weight of Scars

Otobong Nkanga
The Weight of Scars

2015
Woven textile (yarns: viscose, mohair, polyester, organic cotton, linen, acryl), inkjet prints on 10 laser-cut forex plates, four parts

 

Installation view 11th Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju, 2016
Photo Doyun Kim

Wetin You Go Do?

Otobong Nkanga
Wetin You Go Do?

2015
Concrete spheres (29), dye, rope, speakers, sound, 10 min. (loop)


Installation view The Tanks at Tate Modern, London, 2017

Diaspore

Otobong Nkanga
Diaspore

2014
Performance by 7 women (individually or in couples): Stephanie Büchler, Hedat Habtemariam, Donna Hastings, Aleta Hayes, Keishera James, Bona König, and Nathalie Mba Bikoro; Cestrum nocturnum plants, inkjetprinted topographical map laminated to the floor

 

Installation view 14 Rooms, Basel, 2014
Photo Wim van Dongen

In Pursuit of Bling

Otobong Nkanga
In Pursuit of Bling

2014
Videostill from single channel HD video, color, sound
11:59 min

In Pursuit of Bling – The Transformation

Otobong Nkanga
In Pursuit of Bling – The Transformation

2014


Installation view 8. Berlin Biennale, Berlin, 2014
Photo Anders Sune Berg

 

Glimmer: Fragments

Otobong Nkanga
Glimmer: Fragments

2014
Performance by Otobong Nkanga, body fitting metal sculpture, mica (lepidolite, phlogopite, muscovite, fuchsite, biotite), gloves, plastic card.


Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2014
Photo Ernst van Deursen

Taste of a Stone: Itiat Esa Ufok

Otobong Nkanga
Taste of a Stone: Itiat Esa Ufok

2013
Performance by Otobong Nkanga with the elements composing the installation Taste of a Stone – Itiat Esa Ufok, 2013, 5 days between March 13–20, 2013

 

Performance at Sharjah Biennial 11, Sharjah, 2013
Photo Sharjah Art Foundation

Museum Exhibitions

Exhibitions

  1. Matter as Actor

    Matter as Actor

    3 May – 24 June 2023

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