Aging Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past, 2019

Otobong Nkanga and Emeka Ogboh
Aging Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past, 2019
Multi-channel sound installation, sculpture and light installation, poetry, dimensions variable
Installation view: Sharjah Biennial 14: ‘Leaving the Echo Chamber’
Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation
Courtesy of the artists
Courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation


Sharjah Art Foundation is pleased to announce that Otobong Nkanga’s permanent installation, Aging Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past (2019), has reopened for visitors. An immersive, lyrical multichannel sound, sculpture and light installation, the site-specific work animates the flora and fauna in the courtyard of the Foundation’s heritage house Bait Al Aboudi. Now part of the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection, the work was originally commissioned for Sharjah Biennial 14 (SB14) and won the SB14 Prize.

In collaboration with Emeka Ogboh, Nkanga has created several circular craters framed by sand mounds and filled them with water brought in from the sea. Salt and natural dyes have been added to ensure that traces of saline remain as the water evaporates over time. In close proximity to the craters, a number of speakers play a range of natural sounds, a recording of an Emirati ‘rain song’ performed by schoolchildren in Sharjah and texts conceived from the perspectives of water, earth and trees, written and performed by Nkanga. Light boxes rendered in the tonal shades of the sunset as well as poetry by the artist describe the architecture and materiality of the site. The interplay of evaporating water and waning light recall the departure of life from Bait Al Aboudi, now a ruin, while simultaneously imbuing the courtyard enclosure with the residue of salt, the crescendoing sounds of Nkanga’s multi-octave voice and the gradients of the sunset that signal life’s inevitable return.

The work explores the limits of nature, the human (and animal) body, the organic and the inorganic, the animate and the inanimate, and the visible and the invisible, manifesting an emotional ecology of prosperity and depression, hopeful beginnings and eventual demise, and the possibility of rebirth. Land and ecology have long been central themes in Nkanga’s practice, which spans drawing, tapestry, photography, installation, video and performance.

Nkanga has recently been awarded the Lise Wilhelmsen Prize (2019) and received a Special Mention at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019). Her large-scale solo exhibition From Where I Stand was on view at the Tate St Ives (2019) and travelled to the the Middlesbrough Institute of Art, UK. Other recent exhibitions include Acts at the Crossroads, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), Cape Town (2020), and the critically acclaimed solo exhibition There’s No Such Thing as Solid Ground, Gropius Bau, Berlin (2020).

Admission to this permanent installation is free and open to all; however, prior online booking is encouraged to ensure the safety of our visitors and community. Book your visit here:

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Otobong Nkanga works across a broad spectrum of mediums in order to explore ideas surrounding land and natural resources.