Tsumeb Fragments

Otobong Nkanga


Installation, Variable.

Collection: M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. BK008228).

Tsumeb Fragments was produced in 2015 for the exhibition at Kadist, Comot Your Eyes Make I Borrow You Mine (in Nigerian Pidgin English this translates to “Take your eyes away, I’ll lend you mine”). In spring 2015, Nkanga travelled to Namibia, making her way along an almost entirely defunct railway line from Swakopmund to Tsumeb. The artist was intent on reaching The Green Hill in Tsumeb, an area renowned for its minerals, crystals and copper deposits. This hill had been hand-mined by the Ovambo for generations, who took solely what they needed. However, when Namibia became German South West Africa, the colonial regime began to mine The Green Hill industrially, extracting and exporting tones of minerals each year. What Nkanga encountered in Tsumeb was no longer a hill or an active mine, but a dormant hole in the ground. The installation Tsumeb Fragments is born from Nkanga sifting through her memories of Namibia, and the vast amount of material she generated and collected in an attempt to formalize intuitively felt and invisible connections. The modular structure of the tables enables the reconfiguration of the fragments. The mine and its history are presented in their many faces: the image of a monumental hole in the landscape to which the artist dedicates a performance, fragments of stones and debris, archival images collected from the local museum, and the fascinating vision of a floating cluster of copper. The arrangement of the installation challenges the traditional modes of presentation of research-based practices.

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