Otobong Nkanga And Emeka Ogboh Win 2019 Sharjah Biennial Prize
By Xuan Wei Yap
At the Sharjah Biennial 14 opening gala on March 7, the Sharjah Art Foundation presented Nigerian artists Otobong Nkanga and Emeka Ogboh with the 2019 Sharjah Biennial Prize for their collaborative project Aging Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past (2019).
The winning work, commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, consists of several interventions spread across the Biennial’s Bait al-Aboudi venue and the surrounding grounds in Al-Mureijah Square, exploring life’s cyclical nature through a fictive history of the heritage site. Nkanga and Ogboh imagined that a withered tree in the courtyard of the Bait al-Aboudi heritage house had died from an addiction to saltwater. Taking this as their starting point, the artists created several circular craters in the untended garden, which they then filled with seawater, adding salt to the sand mounds around the craters to maintain salinity. Nearby, a number of speakers play nature sounds, alongside recordings of an Emirati “rain song” performed by children in Sharjah, and of Nkanga reading a series of texts written from the perspectives of water, earth and trees. The project also includes light boxes evoking the sunset, as well as poetic descriptions of Bait al-Aboudi’s architecture.
Nkanga and Ogboh were selected by a jury comprising Octavio Zaya, director of the quarterly art magazine Atlántica; cultural theorist and postcolonial scholar Homi Bhabha; and Solange Farkas, founding director and chief curator of São Paulo’s Contemporary Art Festival SESC_Videobrasil. At the award ceremony, the artists were praised for creating “a garden of love and desperation, which movingly faces the problems of age and desolation, the changing seasons of life, and the passion for survival.”
Honorable mentions were given to Algerian photographer and filmmaker Mohamed Bourouissa; London-based multimedia artist Shezad Dawood; Vietnamese painter and video artist Thao-Nguyen Phan; and Chinese visual artist Qiu Zhijie.
Aging Ruins will be on view at Sharjah Biennial 14 until June 10.
Xuan Wei Yap is ArtAsiaPacific’s editorial intern.
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