Let me get the jargon out of the way for those unfamiliar with the phrase “Pracademic” – it is the cross between a practitioner and an academic.
OK, let me come out straight, Professor Nnenna Okore is not directly known to me. Yes, her husband was a classmate of mine. Himself an erudite scholar, businessman and ex-employee of a leading accounting and auditing firm, Ernst & Young in the Chicago area.
This exhibition, which took place at the October Gallery in London between 26 October and 2 December 2017, was an eye-opener for me, and also prompted my interest in exploring this woman of stature further. That exhibition is one of many in the long line of exhibitions spanning geographic spaces from Africa to Australasia, Europe to North America. For instance, her works were featured in the inaugural exhibition “Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary”at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. She has also exhibited at the Goethe Institut in Lagos and has participated at the Dakar and Johannesburg biennials as well as the prestigious 29th Sao Paulo Biennial.
Nnenna’s notable works include her debut project Ulukububa – Infinite Flow as well asMetamorphoses . She continues her work exploring new materials and new textures deployed in rather ingenious and impressive ways. Her Art highlights how the circular economy can be harnessed as she uses sustainable materials in transforming the customer experience.
My work broadly focuses on the concepts of recycling, transformation, and regeneration of forms based on observations from ecological and man-made environments. I am drawn to uniquely diverse and tactile characteristics of the collective physical world. I am astounded by natural phenomena that cause things to become weathered, dilapidated and lifeless – those events slowly triggered by aging, death, and decay – and subtly captured in the fluid and delicate nature of life. My materials are biodegradable and comprise largely of old newspapers, found paper, ropes, thread, yarn, fibers, burlap, dye, coffee, starch, clay, etc.
Nnenna also points out that there are challenges along the way and especially so for female artists and even more so in challenging environments. For example, in one of her interviews with Art Design Cafe she opined:
“My choice was passion-driven, and therefore fairly stress-free. It is generally difficult to sustain an artistic career in Nigeria, and more so for women.”
Ultimately, Nnenna has become a role model for budding female artists having navigated turbulent waters and emerged as a force majeure on the Art scene.
Dr Nnamdi Madichie is Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the School of Business, Law and Social Sciences, Abertay University, Dundee. His research interests span broad areas of Marketing (arts, media & entertainment), and Entrepreneurship (diaspora, ethnic minority & gender). He is also Professor (visiting) at the Unizik Business School, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria and Research Fellow at the Bloomsbury Institute in London. Dr. Madichie is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM), and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SfHEA).