Otobong Nkanga
(Kano, Niger, 1974)

In a Place Yet Unknown, 2017

Woven fabric, metal reservoir, ink, dye
266 x 180 cm
Ed. 1/4 of an edition of 4
[Photo: Courtesy Otobong Nkanga and Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brussels, New York]

Otobong Nkanga reflects on how social identities are multiple and constantly evolving, to the extent that it is impossible to talk about a specific and static identity without taking into account the impact of colonialism, the exchange of merchandise, goods, people, culture. By exploring the notion of the Earth as a place of non-belonging, Nkanga refutes the notion of social identity, bringing to light the processes for which the raw materials are extracted locally, technologically elaborated, and then disseminated at a global level.

In the work In a Place Yet Unknown, a tapestry features the interweaving of a poem by the artist about transformation. The lower part of the tapestry is immersed in black ink, contained in a small metal vat: by filtering through the fabric of the tapestry, the ink gradually changes color and makes the poem interwoven therein invisible. The process of the material transformation of the tapestry is the metaphor for the continuous process of transformation of every society. Albeit apparently supported by stable values, it is actually constantly changing and capable of generating new forms of life from decadence.

Otobong Nkanga lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium. Some her solo exhibitions were held at the ar/ge kunst, Bolzano (2018); MCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2018); The Tanks at Tate Modern, Blavatnik Building, London (2017); Kunsthal Aarhus, Aarhus (2017); Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2016); Tate Modern, London (2015); Kadist Art Foundation FR, Paris (2015); Portikus, Frankfurt (2015). Additionally, her work has been included in institutional group exhibitions such as 58th Venice Biennial (2019); Sharjah Biennial 14 (2019); Documenta 14 (2017); Manifesta (2017); 13th Biennale de Lyon (2015). She also exhibited in group shows at several important museums, such as the National Museum Cardiff, Cardiff (2018); Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow (2018); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2016); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2016).