The Power Plant

In/Tension with Kosisochukwu Nnebe

DEC 05 2023

“The trickster,” says Montreal- and Lagos-based Kosiochukwu Nnebe, “became this other figure that I later discovered is all the more powerful because it’s rooted outside of the West.” According to the artist, “The trickster is a figure that is of extreme importance in West African folklore and spiritual traditions.”

In episode six of the In/Tension podcast, Price discusses a range of topics with the Nigerian-Canadian artist, curator and writer—from when Nnebe first called herself an artist and her growing body of work to sources of motivation and the concept of opacity in relation to Black identity.

Courtesy Kosisochukwu Nnebe

Courtesy Kosisochukwu Nnebe

Drawing on the postcolonial theories of scholars such as Frantz Fanon, Édouard Glissant and more, Nnebe produces works that deconstruct accepted notions of Blackness, all while simultaneously creating new pathways for understanding it. Particularly, Nnebe interprets Glissant’s idea of opacity as a refuge from binary thinking and as a means to reveal oneself. In her work, she identifies the mythological figure of the trickster—represented in the writings of Toni Morrison and Gloria Anzaldúa—as the embodiment of opacity in order to re-imagine the politics of Black visibility.

Across her sculptural and lens-based works, the self-taught artist explores sources of knowledge and ways of being that exist outside of a Western framework. Using images, language and more, Nnebe’s projects question what is seen and unseen to highlight the complexities of one’s standing in society. By incorporating Black feminist theories, she further interrogates the misunderstandings in collective and individual identities.

Nnebe has exhibited in venues across North America, including Studio Sixty Six in Ottawa, 2017; The Ottawa Art Gallery, 2020; Hausen Gallery in New York, 2023; and Next Contemporary in Toronto, 2023. Her upcoming projects will be featured at Optica Gallery in Montreal; Dorothy Uber Bryan Gallery in Ohio; and Critical Distance Centre for Curators as well as the Art Museum, both in Toronto. In 2021, she was awarded the SAW Prize for New Works by Ottawa’s SAW Gallery.

In/Tension, produced by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, is a limited podcast series of intimate, thought-provoking and accessible conversations with emerging, mid-career, and established contemporary visual artists across Canada. In/Tension aims to shed light on the breadth of the Canadian contemporary art scene and provide a platform for diverse artistic voices to dive deep into their creative intentions and facets of their practice.

This project is supported by a Digital Now grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

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