Born in 1975, Nigerian artist Nnenna Okore is one of the leading names on the international contemporary art scene. She holds a first-class degree in Painting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and received her MA and MFA degrees in Sculpture from the University of Iowa in 2004 and 2005.
Mentored by the celebrated sculptor El Anatsui, Okore’s tactile installations are inspired by the textures, forms and colours of organic materials such as clay and wax or discarded materials like newspaper and rope. Much of her work engages the cultures of consumption and recycling in Nigeria. Discovering reusable value in these found objects, she enriches her work with several layers of meaning through the repetitive, laborious and unconventional processes of weaving, sewing, rolling, twisting and dyeing. These techniques observed from villagers perform their daily tasks, at once lend to the highly evocative nature and unpredictability of her output.
Okore continues to experiment, her dramatic formations drawing inspiration from intimate spaces, shelters, architecture and the natural environment. Her technique involves deconstruction – fraying and ripping to generate forms that reveal layers of history. Historian, Gerard Houghton suggests many of the works symbolize transition in reference to life’s processes of ageing and dying.
Nnenna Okore is an associate professor and former chair of the Art Department at North Park University, Chicago, where she teaches Sculpture. She has received several national and international awards and has been shown in numerous prestigious galleries and museums within and outside the United States including the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, Chicago Cultural Centre, October Gallery, London, and the Goethe-Institut, Lagos. She is also a recipient of the 2012/13 Fulbright Scholar Award and spent a year in Nigeria teaching and creating new work.