The Diasporic Schools — Online
Ikọ is a podcast conceived by artist Otobong Nkanga and curator Sandrine Honliasso in the framework of Nkanga’s ongoing work Carved to Flow, started in 2017 and acting as a support structure for initiatives engaged in nurturing social, cultural and economic life in distant and connected geographies. Ikọ is thought as an elastic space that stretches towards multiple geographies, encompasses distinct fields of study and relate heterogenous practices to arouse new readings and modes of creating meanings, relations and goods. Bringing together a wide range of voices intermingling with various audio proposal, Ikọ seeks to expand approaches to contemporary cultural and artistic practices and to allow a plurality of voices to be heard.
Founders: Otobong Nkanga, Sandrine Honliasso
Curator: Sandrine Honliasso
Sound designer: Giocomo Turra
Graphic designer: Antonin Faurel
Sound editor: Octave Broutard
Ikọ podcast is co-produced and supported by: Kunstenfestivaldesarts in the frame of The Diasporic Schools and Carved to Flow
Repairing bodies and land with Aisha Conté
Ikọ Zone featuring: Adelle Nqeto
In this first episode, we meet Aisha Conté, founder of Nyara a brand and store of phyto-aromatherapy products and jewelry based in Senegal. Otobong Nkanga will be in discussion with Aisha Conté, a doctor in Pharmacy who will take us on her personal journey, from working with the pharmaceutical industry to developing and exploring skin and health care products made from local ingredients. Aisha Conté will expand on different aspects of Nyara and how they connect with the social, environmental and economic structures within the Senegalese context and beyond. In the second part of this podcast, Sandrine Honliasso presents Ikọ Zone – for each episode, a musician, poet or writer share with us a part of their world. In this first episode we will listen to a sound intervention by Adelle Nqeto, singer and songwriter from South Africa living in Berlin.
Fashion and ethics with Aboubakar Fofana and Gozi Ochonogor
Ikọ Zone featuring: Nola Cherri
In this episode, Otobong Nkanga introduces a discussion between fashion designer Gozi Ochonogor and multidisciplinary artist and designer Aboubakar Fofana. The conversation will explore how each one articulates their textile practice and inclusion in the fashion industry and sustainable mode of production. It will furthermore reflect on their conceptions of fabric and fashion as a site for community building and support. Within the Ikọ Zone we listen to Nola Cherri, a singer, songwriter and visual artist living in Paris.
Food care in time of crisis with Ashna Afroze Ahmed
Ikọ Zone featuring: Skye Arundhati Thomas
In this episode Otobong Nkanga engages a conversation with organic Urban Food Grower Ashna Afroze Ahmed, founder of Prakriti Farming an organization working towards sustainable urban farming in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As Covid-19 has worldwide increase social inequalities and further exposed growing unequal access of individual to vital needs, this episode leans on the case Prakriti Farming to think about the actions of solidarity initiatives in situation of crisis. Within the Ikọ Zone we will listen to a story written and read by Skye Arundhati Thomas a writer and editor living in Mumbai.
Bodies, Breath, and Bling in Concert with the World
by Diana Campbell Betancourt
Otobong Nkanga’s poetic work places our bodies in concert with the polyphonic and often melancholic chords of the world and its many histories and their subtexts. Her work has the remarkable ability to draw words out of from deep within our psyches by setting the stage for conversation, powerfully sparking the simultaneous recollection and foretelling of (future) memories. It inspires us to find and express our own unique voices on our own terms, tuning them by drawing us in to listen to those that might have previously been drowned out. Nkanga’s practice is exquisitely articulate in the many senses of this complicated and complex word. In a 2007 article by Lynette Clemetson in the New York Times entitled “The Racial Politics of Speaking Well,” the author points out that when whites use the word ‘articulate’ in reference to Blacks, it can carry “a sub-text of amazement, even bewilderment…such a subtext is inherently offensive because it suggests that the recipient of the ‘compliment’ is notably different from other Black people...the implication is that most Black people do not have the capacity to engage in articulate speech, when white people are automatically assumed to be articulate.” Growing up between Nigeria, France, the Netherlands, and now based in Belgium, Otobong Nkanga throws this “misguided compliment” in the face of “the articulate elite,” bringing about an acute understanding that is not plausible to feel or understand the world or the wide possible (vocal)range of human emotions with only Oxford or Princeton English. In other words, it is not possible to articulate the world from a closed framework that doesn’t leave room for other perspectives to bleed in.
The performance of a word can evoke far more meaning than simply reading it out in the way the dominant language experts say it should sound. People who “have an accent” and grammatical structures that do not align with “English” are able to understand the world in multiple frameworks. Broken English is one of the most lyrical forms of creative synthesis, where a new language is built up from a fertile space between tongues and how they move when they take ownership of foreign words. Nkanga incorporates broken Nigerian English into several of her works, speaking to the fact that the kind of English that this essay is written in is insufficient to express some of the emotions she seeks to convey. Articulation within many African cosmologies and mythologies is deeply connected to weather, time, the soil, the people, and agriculture, a type of articulation that a stifled by a preconceived perspective of white privilege, which dehumanizes and belittles knowledges far beyond the capacity of a person with a singular vision of the world to understand. In Nkanga’s view of the word, breaking it away from a deficient place of ignorance and opening it up to other perspectives, “the articulate allows one to move through the world and to experience other worlds; it connotes a movement of space and a flow of space, a space of accumulating knowledge to move, allowing one to exist in multiple places through articulation and movement.”
The word ‘articulate’ finds its root in the Latin term ‘articulus’, meaning small connecting part. Nkanga’s work is able to be an articulus between the externally visible and the microscopic in-visible, conceptually joining the mass of a mountain and the void of a mine to a speck of a mineral absorbed through our skin when we use cosmetic and pharmaceutical products; that same mineral could also be found on the surface of one of her drawings or installations. When used as an adjective, Nkanga’s practice is articulate in its eloquence and ability to use clear (body)language in multiple tongues (including her mother tongue Ibibio, English, Broken Nigerian English, French, Flemish, and Yoruba) to express complex concepts by bridging vastly different reference points drawn from history and personal experience. When employed as a verb, her work articulates the stories of the many invisible hands disfiguring our planet, giving shape to the shapeless and a voice to the voiceless in her performances, drawings, tapestries, sculptures, videos, and installations. Shifting the form of the word to a noun, articulation is the geometry of form and space. In the field of architecture that Nkanga cites as a recurring inspiration, a highly articulated work is one where a whole form is built up by fluidly joining together distinct parts. Each part is clearly emphasized in its separateness as well as its togetherness with what it builds up. Nkanga shines light on the joints of history that shape the landscapes grazing the surface of the earth today, lifting back the curtains of perceived pristine beauty; a lush forest, for example, could be fertilized by mass graves left over from the horrors of genocide.
Text written by Diana Campbell Betancourt,
In the framework of the exhibition Uncertain Where the Next Wind Blows, 13.11.2020 — 31.01.2021, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (Norway)
 Clemetson, Lynette. “The Racial Politics of Speaking Well.” The New York Times, 4 Februari, 2007. https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/weekinreview/04clemetson.html.
 Otobong Nkanga, phone conversation with author, August 13, 2020.
Otobong Nkanga and Sandrine Honliasso
Otobong Nkanga (*1974, Kano, Nigeria) began her art studies at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and later continued her studies in Paris at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. She has been artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam (2002-2004) and she finished her Masters in the Performing Arts at Dasarts, Advanced Research in Theatre and Dance studies, Amsterdam (2005-2008). Furthermore she has been artist-in-residence at the DAAD, Berlin (2014) and Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin in 2019. Interweaving media such as installation, textile, performance, painting, drawing, texts and stories to create multi-sensory encounters, Nkanga’s work is often based on a period of intensive research, teasing out the many-layered intersections between objects and actions and the relationship between care and repair. By exploring the notion of land as a place of non-belonging, Nkanga provides an alternative meaning to the social ideas of identity. Paradoxically, she brings to light the memories and historical impacts provoked by humans and nature. She lays out the inherent complexities of resources like soil and earth and their potential values in order to provoke narratives and stories connected to land. Nkanga has exhibited widely in exhibitions around the world, including Documenta 14 (Greece and Germany), Biennale di Venezia (Italy), Sharjah Biennial (UAE) as well as solo presentations at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (USA), Tate Modern (UK). Her most recent solo exhibitions took place at Zeitz Mocaa, Cape Town (RSA), and Tate St. Ives in England. The latter exhibition, From Where I Stand, is currently on show at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Nkanga was the 2019 artist-in-residence at Gropius Bau in Berlin, Germany, where she further developed the project Carved to Flow, culminating in her current solo exhibition There's No Such Thing as Solid Ground. In 2019, Nkanga received the inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award and a Special Mention Award at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, she was named winner of the 2019 Sharjah Biennial Prize and won the prestigious Peter-Weiss-Preis, and she was also the recipient of the Ultimas-Flemish Prize for Culture. In 2017, she was awarded the Belgian Art Prize and, in 2015, the Yanghyun Prize.
Sandrine Honliasso is an independent curator and critic. She has worked as an assistant in production and mediation at the Fondation Kadist (Paris) and as a communication officer at the Institut d'art contemporain/Villeurbanne. She is the author of Monologues, a digital space dedicated to contemporary artistic creation. She was co-curator of the exhibitions Partout, mais pas pour très longtemps (2018, Lyon); Germination (2018, Dakar); Tongue on tongue, nos salives dans ton oreille (2019, Paris) and curator of the exhibition Baptiste Fertillet, Cutting/Slasher (2020, Nantes). She was twice resident in the research programme RAW Académie (Germination, 2018; CURA, 2019) at the art centre RAW Material Company (Dakar). She is currently collaborating with Ariane Leblanc on the exhibition D'ailleurs je viens d'ici which will be presented in spring 2021 at La Comédie de Caen.
Repairing bodies and land with Aisha Conté
Doctor of Pharmacy graduated from Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar (UCAD), Dr Aïsha Conté has worked in various professional fields related to the health sector, including medicinal herbalism. Deeply pan-African, the promoter of the NYARA brand believes that "Africa will only develop on its own, proof being that the continent abounds in wealth, much of which remains to be exploited". She wishes to transmit her passion for valued products from African lands, through a return to nature, at a time when more and more chemicals used in the composition of drugs and cosmetics are criticized, because of their harmful effects on health. She is a woman committed to societal causes related to the health and public hygiene problems experienced by African populations: the depigmentation of African women, the pollution of plastic waste, among others. Through her personal commitment to the promotion of African culture, she wishes to convey the message in an indirect or subtle way that it is through women that the continent will finally develop!
Adelle Nqeto music stems from the gaze of an introverted observer with a passion for melody and stories. Rooted in South African folk and exploring Jazz, Indie and Pop, Adelle’s work expresses not only the realities of being human – but also how beautiful such reality is. Quite fittingly, her music style has been labelled as “Alternative African Folk”. Now based in Berlin, Adelle’s second EP Home was released in May 2019, focusing on elements of social justice in South Africa through the lens of a musician native to its soil. For an upcoming series of concerts, Adelle is joined by fellow South Africans Robin Brink (drums/production) and Tsepo Kolitsoe Pooe (cello) to create a sonic landscape of organic and electronic elements that support the bittersweet melodies Adelle has conjured up about our everyday existence.
Fashion and ethics with Aboubakar Fofana and Gozi Ochonogor
Born in Mali and raised in France, Aboubakar Fofana is a multidisciplinary artist and designer whose working mediums include calligraphy, textiles and natural dyes. He is known for his work in reinvigorating and redefining West African indigo dyeing techniques, and much of his focus is devoted to the preservation and reinterpretation of traditional West African textile and natural dyeing techniques and materials. Fofana's work stems from a profound spiritual belief that nature is divine and that through respecting this divinity, we can understand the immense and sacred universe. His raw materials come from the natural world, and his working practice revolves around the cycles of nature, the themes of birth, decay and change, and the impermanence of these materials. He sees the conception and realisation of this work as a form of spiritual practice, which is shared with his audience. Fofana is currently deeply involved in creating a farm in conjunction with the local community in the district of Siby, Mali, in which the two types of indigenous West African indigo will be the centrepiece for a permaculture model based around local food, medicine and dye plants. This project hopes to contribute to the rebirth of fermented indigo dyeing in Mali and beyond, and represents his life's greatest project to date.
Gozi Ochonogor is Creative Director of U.Mi-1 (pronounced you.me.one), a brand whose collections were inspired by Nigerian culture, mixed with British and Japanese aesthetic: places she calls home. Gozi believes that it is through our similarities that we begin to appreciate our differences. Gozi studied Software Engineering at Imperial College London and menswear design at Central School of Fashion London. She learned about art by working at the Anthony Reynolds gallery. An astute pattern-cutter, Gozi explores themes of contemporary art forms, in particular architecture and cubism through clever construction. Her approach to tailoring is like that of an engineer - with a zeal for perfection and attention to detail. She is passionate about reviving and evolving Nigerian textile traditions. The brand is stocked in stores worldwide
Nola Cherri's research focuses on the transformation of sound, from its acoustic form to an experimental Afro techno evolution. From a raw material, of which she works the form, comes out the sounds of factories. These pieces come from a process of working in the chain, carried by very basic rhythms through those of a sewing machine, that of the thread that twists under the pressure of the needle or skin that stretches when tanned. Clothing is a second skin, it speaks for us, our identity, who we decide to be. An incorruptible preacher of thrift stores, Nola sees upcycling as a way to break the chain of capitalism and textile industrialization, which cause both human and ecological damage.
Food care in time of crisis with Ashna Afroze Ahmed
Ashna Afroze Ahmed is an Urban Food Grower and the Founder of Prakriti Farming. She believes a sustainable agriculture and healthy lifestyle can create a healthy generation which ensures food safety and security in the long run. She has worked in numerous urban farming project in Dhaka city and other peri-urban spaces since the inception of her company in 2017. She is a member of World Food Bank, American Urban Farming Forum and IPC (Indian Permaculture Institute). She owns a Facebook page for children’s healthy diet recipe called MummyYummy. She has been an active member of Singapore, Malaysia and Bangkok Urban Farming Forum. Her other scope of work includes Community Farming. Which is producing naturally grown food, Training farmers to be micro entrepreneur, creating market access to the food produced by her community, and selling directly to the urban consumer at a fair price. She has 35 male and 20 female farmers who are currently working at the community farm. In 2019, she has been awarded 1st prize amongst the Top 5 women entrepreneurs of change by World bank, IFC at the event, Strengthening Market access for women business owners. Her 10 years of experience ranges from local and multinational companies in Project Management, Business Development, Sales and Marketing. She worked for Chevron Bangladesh (Oil & Gas) and Beximco Media. She worked as content editor for Bangladesh Brand Forum Magazine, and research and communication associate for a Marketing Firmin UK. She graduated from the University of Delhi.
Skye Arundhati Thomas is a writer and editor based in India. She writes for The London Review of Books, Artforum, Frieze, and others. She is an editor-in-chief at Akademi Mag and a contributing editor at The White Review. Her work pays special attention to contemporary politics, culture, and the histories of South Asia. In her own fiction practice she is interestedin vulnerability, portraiture and tenderness.