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Acts at the Crossroads

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Otobong Nkanga asks us to consider the earth as an extension of the physical human body, to understand that it too is undeniably alive.   

There are a host of potential outcomes that present themselves at points of convergence.  

An agreement or understanding between two parties, a merger of ideas, thoughts, belief systems, cultures, histories and narratives.  

Connections become created, bonds are formed and solidified or broken. Differing ideologies are confronted, things are torn apart or brought together. 

Nigerian-born, Belgium-based Otobong Nkanga’s solo exhibition, Acts at the Crossroads, invites us to connect with ourselves and each other at these points of awareness and reflexivity. 

Installation View – Taste of a Stone, 2010 | Acts at the Crossroads, Zeitz MOCAA. © Anel Wessels.

This exhibition is running at the ZEITZ MOCAA in Cape Town until 23 February 2020. 

The crossroads 

Rather than present us with an instructive method of documentation and observation, Nkanga grounds her multidisciplinary work in a familiarity of encounter between viewer, artist and object.  

Nkanga asks us to consider the earth as an extension of the physical human body, to understand that it too is undeniably alive.  

Double Plot, 2018 | Acts at the Crossroads, Zeitz MOCAA. © Anel Wessels.

Exploring environmental damage and the politics of land, Nkanga’s practice becomes a conduit, a voice for these raw, organic materials.  

Acts of labour, mining, commodification and trade have an impact on the earth that is also mirrored in the ways we treat the body. 

Acts at the Crossroads is a significant survey exhibition, and the first museum exhibition on the African continent of the artist’s work.  

It includes works from the last two decades – a multidisciplinary practice that considers humanity’s connection to the environment in complex ways. 

“I thought it was interesting to be able to think about these ideas, especially in South Africa, which for me has been a kind of crossroads. Or the acts or pacts that have been very much related to land and landscape,” explained Nkanga 

“So, when I was really thinking about the title, I wanted to allude to entering into the realm of matter and material and its effect on different groups of people.” 

Taste of a Stone (detail), 2010 | Acts at the Crossroads, Zeitz MOCAA. © Anel Wessels.

“Exploring environmental damage and the politics of land, her practice becomes a conduit, a voice for these raw, organic materials. Acts of labour, mining, commodification and trade have an impact on the earth that is also mirrored in the ways we treat the body,” said Precious Mhone, Curatorial Assistant. 

Know the artist 

Nkanga was born in Kano, Nigeria in 1974 and began studying art at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria and later graduated from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France.  

She attended the residency programme at the Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, Netherlands and in 2008 obtained a Masters in the Performing Arts at Dasarts, Amsterdam, Netherlands. She currently lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium. 

Nkanga explores the politics of land and its relationship to the body.  

Unpacking histories of land ownership and migrations, Nkanga brings to light the memories and historical impacts provoked by humans and nature.  

The artist’s research makes connections to all the various components that make up our environment, observing the inherent complexities of resources like soil and earth and their potential values in order to provoke narratives and stories about the land. 

She has been the recipient of numerous awards, most recently the inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award (2019) from the Norwegian Henie Onstad Art Centre, and the Sharjah Art Foundation Prize (2019) in the United Arab Emirates. 

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