For nearly two decades Nigerian-born, Antwerp-based artist Otobong Nkanga (b. 1974) has been working in a variety of media including drawing, photography, installation, and performance. She observes social and topographical changes in her environment, the complexities that are embedded within these experiences, and how natural resources and their potential values are subjected to regional and cultural scrutiny.
MATRIX 260 consists of two mixed-media performance works that use self-reflection and storytelling to explore the material, natural, and sociopolitical history of Nigeria and beyond. The artist will present From Where I Stand (2015) at BAMPFA on May 11 and Contained Measures of a Kolanut (2012) at the Tropical House in the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley on May 14. At the root of From Where I Stand is an investigation into the colonial history of the mineral rush of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when European companies extracted resources, such as mica, copper, and malachite, from resource-rich areas, leaving them in a state of ruin; this is a subject Nkanga has engaged with for many years. In May 2015, Nkanga set out on a quest to Tsumeb, Namibia, a German colonial town founded in 1905, to find out what remained after the extensive mining of a massive natural hill of green, oxidized copper ore (malachite and azurite). In response to her findings, Nkanga has developed several works such as From Where I Stand, in which a rug fashioned after the structural shape of a mineral acts as a platform from which she develops a series of performances. For MATRIX, Nkanga will debut a newly commissioned performance as part of this work.
Contained Measures of a Kolanut presents an array of tables with diagrams, maps, and images, among other things, that explore the rituals and cultural histories associated with the kolanut—a bitter nut from the kola tree indigenous to tropical African rainforests that is a natural source of caffeine. Over the course of four hours Nkanga sits at one of the tables surrounded by various pictures and materials and asks participants to sit with her, while she engages them in discussion and invites them to partake in her variation of a kolanut ceremony.