‘Art Object as Counter-fetish in Otobong Nkanga’s Carved To Flow, Documenta 14,’ Runway

Otobong Nkanga, ‘Carved to Flow’, Documenta 14, Athens, 2017. Photo: Sumugan Sivanesan

Carved to Flow
Otobong Nkanga’s Carved to Flow (2017) is a process-based research project and enterprise encompassing performance, installation and socially engaged methodologies. Its focus is the production, distribution and sale of a natural soap bar, o 8, made up of seven oils that ‘nourish the skin’ sourced from regions that encompass the Mediterranean, North and West Africa and the Middle East. The oils are combined with water, lye and charcoal which according to Nkanga prompts us to ‘think about spaces that are actually charred’; places that are depleted of resources, riven by war, impacted by ecological shifts, toxicity and other such traumas that force people to move. The histories, knowledges and stories that are associated with these places travel with the ‘nourishing oils’ that are combined into o 8 and are according to the artist, ‘part and parcel’ of a ‘taste palate’ that connects us.

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