EXHIBITION MOED X MUSEUM ARNHEM
Resilience in Times of Destruction

2014

Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling, The Discovery

The work of Otobong Nkanga (born in Kano, Nigeria in 1974) consists of several types of media, ranging from performance, photography, drawing, installation, sculpture and video. This multimedia perspective also comes back in her installation piece In Pursuit of Bling in which she uses a combination of woven textile pieces, video, sound, prints and objects. Nkanga explores through her art social and topographical changes of the environment, opening up discussions on human connections with natural materials and resources. In Pursuit of Bling highlights colonial violence and forces the spectator to think about the origins of the glitter and minerals in their lives. In her work, Nkanga examines how raw minerals are transported through covert economies and how they are transformed into desirable consumables. She pays attention to the attractiveness of everything that shines and to the way in which everything is put at work in order to obtain those valuable resources to create shiny objects and glitter, despite the fact that this results in the destruction of the earth.

Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling, The Discovery, 2014

In Pursuit of Bling addresses the human fascination for bling and its consequences for human beings and the ecosystem. The multimedia installation explores the various states of “mica”: a term that is derived from the Latin word ‘micare’, meaning “shimmer” or “bling”. Nkanga constantly raises critical questions such as how raw materials are moved from one place to another, how they are transformed from one form of appearance (the mineral) to another (for instance make-up or smartphones), what the consequences are of delving natural materials for humans beings and the environment, how this affects the ecosystem, and what the colonial implications of this process are.

 

In Pursuit of Bling consists out of several artworks and objects that address the connection between the colonial past and the destruction of nature in contemporary times. For example, the tapestry The Discovery shows the molecular structure of mica in combination with motives that refer to land maps and locations of precious raw materials. In a cluster of interconnected tables surrounding the tapestry,  actual mica minerals and their transformations are displayed.

© Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling (installation view), 2014. Photo copyright Eva Broekema, Collection Museum Arnhem.

Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling, The Transformation

Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling, Transformation

The tapestry The Transformation depicts a man and woman whose heads have the shape of abstract landscapes, depicting the human involvement in the exploitation and the trade of natural resources such as copper.

© Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling (installation view), 2014. Photo copyright Eva Broekema, Collection Museum Arnhem.

Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling, Installation View

Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling, Installation View

Some tables of In Pursuit of Bling display mineral stones, others contain screens on which videos of their transformations are shown. In one video you see abstract images of see-through mica’s, in the other you are confronted with images of the copper roof and steeple of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. Here, Nkanga herself is wearing a triangular head gear made of copper carbonate. The references to copper convey an important meaning. The coppers from the Berlin church and from Nkanga’s headgear were extracted from the Green Hill, a site of a German mining operation around the city Tsumeb in Namibia. A large part of the mine is nowadays closed due to depletion: a giant hole with delta waste is everything that is left. All wealth that was once part of the earth of Green Hill is now ‘blinging and shining’ elsewhere. As silent witnesses of this fact, the photographs of Green Hill are displayed on one of the tables. Nkanga’s installation subtly connects present issues with the colonial past, as well as with issues that future generations will be confronted with, including questions of the Anthropocene and its relation to colonialism and capitalism.

© Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling (installation view), 2014. Photo copyright Eva Broekema, Collection Museum Arnhem.

Zanele Muholi, Hate Crime Survivor, 2004.

2004

Zanele Muholi, Hate Crime Survivor

Zanele Muholi is a visual activist and photographer born in Umlazi, Durban in 1972 and is currently living in Johannesburg. Her self-proclaimed mission is “to rewrite a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South African and beyond”. Her work focuses on the intersections of sexual violence, HIV, racism, homophobia and transsexuality. Muholi confronts the notion that lesbian practices are alien to African cultures and are a colonial remain, and offers a radical break from stereotypical narratives about black female sexualities. In her first solo exhibition Visual Sexuality in 2004 Muholi exhibited the series Only Half the Picture from which Hate Crime Survivor/ Case Number (2004) developed. In this photo series Muholi portrays lesbian victims of sexual violence and the rags of papers they receive at the police station as proof of declaration. With this work Muholi wants to address the increasing cases of rape and murder based on sexual orientation in South Africa and explores the dynamics of black lesbian identity through depictions of relationships and sexual intimacy, documenting vulnerable and private moments.

Zanele Muholi, Hate Crime Survivor, 2004.

[Hate Crime Survivor is the first part of the diptych with Case Number, read further below]

© Zanele Muholi, Hate Crime Survivor / Case Number, 2004, Collection Museum Arnhem.

Zanele Muholi, Case Number, 2004

2004

Zanele Muholi, Case Number

Zanele Muholi, Case Number, 2004

Case Number shows an impersonal, carelessly written number for a case of ‘rape and assault’. The piece of paper has been given to a rape survivor by the police after reporting the sexual assault at the police station. The piece of paper brings to light how there is no hate crime legislation to chart the attacks, while research has shown how at least 500 lesbians are victims of corrective rape each year. The rapes are not categorized as hate crimes, which undercuts movements to illuminate and end the practice.

While calling attention to the practice of these ‘corrective rapes’, Muholi spins the narrative in some of her other work by also addressing the positive sides of black lesbian lived realities in South Africa. Muholi finds it important to not only focus on the negative sides of these realities that are being addressed in terms of victimhood and sexual assault, but to also focus on the positive sides, such as she does in her series Faces and Phases: Siyafana (we are the same), on which the activist has been working from 2006 onwards.

© Zanele Muholi, Hate Crime Survivor / Case Number, 2004, Collection Museum Arnhem.