Otobong preparing the labels
Article Dyptik, mars 2012
"Contained Measures of Tangible Memories, Indigo Regina"
Indigo powder (detail of the installation)
Label on the piece of cloth
Otobong Nkanga adjusting the installation
—2017.07.11

Contained Measures of Tangible Memories : Indigo Regina par Otobong Nkanga

The installation consists of: a dyed cotton fabric, a video projection, Indigo powder and pebbles on metallic cups. The project was co-produced between the artist and Appartement22 in Rabat. The artist would like to thank Abderrahmane Essaidi, Maud Houssais, Haje and Nourdine Khalid.

The multidisciplinary practice of Otobong Nkanga is structured around chains of associations, which reveal a complex and interdependent layering of narratives, fuelled by an acute observation of our world, often with a specifically autobiographical tone.

For the project “Contained Measures of Tangible Memories: Indigo Regina” at L’Appartement22, Otobong Nkanga continues his research with a project focused on Indigo, as one of five natural substances—with mica, alum, mimosa and black soap—found during his travels in Morocco. For this, the artist considers the uses the practices concerning tinctures and colouring. The artist chose to dye a white cotton fabric, which had previously belonged to her mother, Regina: a practitioner of traditional batik dying from Lagos. This process of replication puts into question the alchemy and provenance of the cotton, brought from Lagos to Anvers, Fez and Rabat respectively. It presents itself as an archetype of the globalisation that has become constituent with our being, and at that, becomes approximate with what Edouard Glissant described as the imprints left upon us by the places we’ve been and the narratives they unfold. Once dyed, the artist questions: “does the fabric have the same density as in my memories? Maybe after being treated the same way ? Does it take on the same smell, the same viscerality as what I remember it having when I was younger ?” The project “Contained Measures of Tangible Memories: Indigo Regina” discusses the inherent complexity of memorising tangible aspects of locations, colours and gestures. The textile, titled “Tales of a Cloth” is only revealed through the oral transmission of know-how. It is imprinted within the encounters and displacements occurring between various worlds. Furthermore, the irregular texture of the cotton fibre absorbs the dye irregularly. These imperfections in the fabric highlight the trajectories associated with the artists memory of the material processes, in a very delicate and sophisticated process of conceptual and material folding.

The artist seeks to link these ancestral processes with materials that traverse generations, countries and continents in the era of emergence we are in. She evokes these actions, yet transfers them into objects belonging to a different time entirely. The video then brings past and present into a mutual context, as a moment that connects us to our present experiences. The simple traversal between past and present does not in itself empower one into progress: rather, it is the tangible objects that we have accessible, which provide us with the possibility to project ourselves into the future. When there is transmission, there is less mental stagnation and thus a better chance to exploit the knowledge at hand. This is particularly significant in countries in which oral transmission is the only source of communication.

Contrarily, when there is no access to the memory, or memory is altered and the instruments of knowledge are no longer present, the present moment becomes intangible. Relying on a dialectic between nature and culture, the works of Otobong Nkanga — herself as well mobile and evolving — explore the dissonances that appear between cultures, in the same way that similar products will have various uses, meanings and stories depending on the culture in which they operate. Each one of her materials corresponds to a memory inscribed in her childhood in Nigeria, which she has dreamed of seeing, touching and smelling, since her first visit here in 2009. Otobong Nkanga draws from the personal stories that reside in us, acting as driving forces for our relationship to the world, here relayed through a video installation rendered for Appartement22.


Otobong Nkanga started her studies at Obafemi Awolowo University à Ile- Ife, Nigeria, then l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France. She was part of the residency programm of the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten en 2003 – 04 à Amsterdam, and obtain n 2008 her Masters in the Performing Arts à Dasarts, Amsterdam, NL. Otobong Nkanga is exhibiting important international venues like the Sharjah, Taipei, Dakar, São Paulo ou de La Havane Biennale. Her recent exhibitions are : “Bruises and Lustre”, Mukha, Anvers [2015] ; “Comot Your Eyes Make I Borrow You Mine”, Kadist Foundation , Paris [2015]; “Crumbling Through Powdery Air”, Portikus, Frankfurt [2015]; “Object Atlas, Fieldwork in the Museum”, Weltkulturen Museum, Francfort, [2015]. “The Altered Landscape, Photographs of a changing Environment”, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, Nevada, USA, [2011]. “MarklinWorld”. Kunsthalle KAdE Amersfoort, Amersfoort, NL [2011]. “The Collectors Show” part of “VANUIT HIER-OUT OF HERE”, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Pays-Bas, [2011]. “L’inattendu du Tout Monde” Un hommage à Goddy Leye”. L’appartement22, Rabat, invité par Art-O-Rama, Marseille, France. [2011] “All we ever wanted”, Center of Contemporary Arts, Lagos, Nigéria. [2011]. “Outre Mesures et Programmes radio (Maps, timelines, radio programmes)”, Centre d’Art La Galerie, Noisy-le-Sec, France. [2011] “Faites commes chez vous”, Raw Material Company – A center for art, Knowledge and society. Dakar, Senegal. [2011] Aussi : “Animism”, Extra City Kunsthal et M HKA Museun van Hedendaagse Kunst, Anvers, Belgique,(2010). “Diagonal Views, Nieuwe Vide”, Haarlem, Pays-Bas, [2009]. “Re/presentaciones : ellas”, Casa Africa, Las Palmas Gran Canaries, [2008]. “Flow”. Studio Museum Harlem, New York [2008]. “Snap judgments : New Positions in Contemporary African Photography. Toured from 2005 – 2008. “Africa Remix”, exposition itinérante de 2004 – 2007

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