Artist We Love: Sokari Douglas Camp
Born in Boguma, Rivers State, Nigeria, Sokari Douglas Camp is an artist we love!
Class 1958, Sokari Douglas Camp grew with her brother-in-law, anthropologist Robin Horton. She moved to England as a child, but she often returned to Nigeria to visit her family and participate in the traditional activities of the Kalabari tribe.
She studied at the Central School of Art and Crafts in Oakland, California, earned her BA degree at the Central School of Art and Design in London and the Master of Arts title from the Royal College of Art.
The artist’s work includes many sculptures in steel inspired by the two cultures that forged her: African and Western cultures. In her art the echo of Kalabari rituals is strong. At the same time, there is fierce criticism of colonialism and gender inequality. It comes with passionate participation in environmental issues. Above all, the one concerning the pollution in Niger Delta.
Sokari Douglas Camp’s perspective unites the two cultures without duality; the two worlds are welded in a daring message full of expressive freedom.
Sokari Douglas Camp’s Career
Sokari Douglas Camp’s international reputation grew fast, converging in more than 40 solo shows worldwide.
Her sculptures are part of the permanent collections at The Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., at the British Museum in London and at Setegaya and Tokyo Museums.
Many international galleries in France, Japan, Italy, Spain, United States, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Cuba, South Africa, and Britain exhibited her art.
Among her most important personal exhibitions, there is certainly “Spirits in Steel – The Art of the Kalabari Masquerade” at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
This exhibition integrates sculptures, photographs, and videos inspired by masquerade practices in Buguma. The life-sized sculptures installed in one long gallery give the impression of entering in a progress area of the masquerade. She observes the complexity hidden in the concept of identity. She seems to consider how distant is the perception of masqueraders from the way they present themselves.
Sokari Douglas Camp received important awards for her artistic vision and her commitment to representing social and global themes within her sculptures.
In 2005 she received the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her services to art, in 2008 the one of Governor at University of the Arts and in 2017 the title of Honorary Fellowship of SOAS, University of London.
Sokari Douglas Camp’s Sculptures
Alongside these works, Camp created important public memorial sculptures. Among these, there is the “Battle Bus”, The Living Memorial to Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nigerian writer, and environmental activist.
It is the artist’s ability to represent contemporary concerns through matter, folklore, dances, and rituals that stands the perfect artistic synthesis between African and Western worlds.
Despite the criticism of both societies, the compromise succeeds, and the two realities merge into a harmonious but outlined whole.
Actually, this compromise is the basis of works such as “Primavera”, the wonderful steel sculpture. In this artwork, European classicism and Kalabari themes come together but the interpretation can come from different perspectives.
On the other hand, in works like “Europe Supported by Africa and America” the relationship between the two worlds is different. The work includes three female representations of Africa, America, and Europe and is inspired by William Blake’s drawing.
Art We Love
Irony and playfulness have an important role in Sokari Douglas Camp’s work, making her art even more fascinating. The foundations of her work continued their evolution with a surprising development.
Among her most appreciated works there is “Green Leaf Barrel”, an iconic expression of her Nigerian roots and British education. The artwork represents a woman goddess creating growth from an oil barrel. Green Leaf Barrel is inspired by the condition in the Nigeria Delta, polluted and overcrowded. With this artwork, Camp focuses on the positive sides of life itself confirming her irony once again.
The path of this artist is remarkable and her art continues to result exuberant and mysterious, daring and aware. Sokari Douglas Camp is definitely an artist we love!
Visit artist’s gallery on RDN Arts: Sokari Douglas Camp