'Otobong Nkanga Chooses Life' – Art Basel Stories
25 August 2023
‘Humans are only a small, minute part of the ecosystem,’ says Otobong Nkanga over a Zoom call from her studio, ‘but we as beings have forgotten this.’ It’s an observation that reverberates throughout the Nigerian-born, Antwerp-based artist’s urgent, challenging, and yet ultimately optimistic practice, which ranges from drawings to large-scale installations, from performances to projects in the social realm. To see the world through Nkanga’s eyes is to see not merely a stage on which Homo sapiens play out their all too often solipsistic and (self-) destructive dramas, but rather to see a shared habitat, in which what she terms countless ‘life forms’ (which include fauna and flora as well as soil and rivers, seas and mountains) coexist, connected in a great web of being.
Currently the subject of a solo exhibition, ‘Craving for Southern Light’ at IVAM València, Spain – a show that is, among other things, a meditation on weather, light, and heat – Nkanga is also a totemic presence in the Hayward Gallery, London’s environmentally-focused summer group exhibition ‘Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis’. The Hayward show is billed as inspired by the artist’s proposition that ‘caring is a form of resistance’. What this means, says Nkanga, is that attentiveness to ‘other types of life that do not have a voice as we do’ is the basis for countering ‘what the economy has to say, what capital has to say, what politicians decide’ about the non-human elements of our ecosystem. At a time of planetary emergency, such care is what’s needed to ensure ‘the possibility of existence’ in the critical years to come.
Read the full piece via Art Basel.