Otobong Nkanga in 'RE/SISTERS: A Lens on Gender and Ecology' at Barbican Centre, London, UK
12 October 2023
Work by Otobong Nkanga is included in a major new group exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery, 'RE/SISTERS: A Lens on Gender and Ecology'.
With around 50 international women and gender non-conforming artists, RE/SISTERS features work from emerging and established artists across the fields of photography and film. Reflecting on a range of themes, the exhibition explores environmental and gender justice as indivisible parts of a global struggle. It seeks to address existing power structures that threaten our increasingly precarious ecosystem, while underscoring women’s role at the forefront of environmental advocacy.
Nkanga’s Tsumeb Fragments was produced in Spring 2015 when the artist travelled to Namibia – making her way along an almost entirely defunct railway line from Swakopmund to Tsumeb – intent on reaching The Green Hill area renowned for its minerals, crystals and copper deposits. Hand-mined by the Ovambo for generations, who took solely what they needed, The Green Hill began to be mined industrially when Namibia became German South West Africa, extracting and exporting tonnes of minerals each year. What Nkanga encountered in Tsumeb was no longer a hill or an active mine, but a dormant hole in the ground.
The installation Tsumeb Fragments is born from Nkanga sifting through her memories of Namibia, and the vast amount of material she generated and collected, in an attempt to formalise intuitively felt and invisible connections. The modular structure of the tables enables the reconfiguration of the fragments. The mine and its history are presented in their many faces: the image of a monumental hole in the landscape to which the artist dedicates a performance, fragments of stones and debris, archival images collected from the local museum, and the fascinating vision of a floating cluster of copper.
The exhibition is on view through 14 January 2024. Find further information via Barbican.