Nezaket Ekici • Abrie Fourie • Tosin Otitoju
AKINBODE AKINBIYI (* 1946 in Oxford) is a chronicler of daily life who is more interested in “everydaylifeness” rather than the everyday. He has been working as a photographer and author since the early 1970s. His artistic focus is on the large urban agglomerations and megacities, especially on the African continent. He moves like a flaneur on main and side streets through the everyday life of these cities, their shopping centers and amusement facilities, in order to make recordings that bring the vibrancy of these conflict-laden rooms to life. Akinbiyi turns his attention to the rituals of everyday politics, spirituality and humanity beyond the shiny surfaces of constructed identities. He seeks, consciously or unconsciously, for breaks in our everyday life. His work is exhibited and published worldwide. In 2016 he was awarded the Goethe Medal. Most recently, his work was on view in a monographic exhibition at the Gropius Bau Berlin (February 7th – July 19th, 2020). He lives and works in Berlin.
The fundamental precept is that of an open-ended conversation, of what is opera, of what this art form can be out in the sparse landscape of the Sahel. Open-ended voices speaking out and stating their ideas, visions, understandings. Song, theatre, intricate scenarios, bodies moving gracefully in the afternoon heat of the dusty, rock strewn paths, performative masquerades gesticulating into tightly strung marionettes, dangling exquisitely on improvised stages.
Baobab trees asserting their presence, demanding recognition of underground currents and the upward thrusting weave of their branches. The opera is all of these and much, much more, an inclusive will of expression, formed out from incalculable sources.
The residency at the Village Opera is an essential aspect of this constantly ongoing conversation, creative personalities engaging intimately with the immediate surroundings, the vibrancy of the deeply embedded Sahel. This engagement too is open-ended, can evolve in any which way is desired. Important is the stay at the village, imbibing the everyday of the small community. The clinic, the school, the few inhabitants living in the spaciously designed single units. There is a sense of the round, of entering into a large, widely spread flat amphitheatre, the dwelling units looking out at each other from the near distance.
Animal sounds, birdsong envelope the round, draw out into the immediate landscape, rocky outcrops, sparse vegetation. These are the fundaments of the operatic chords, the beginnings of creative impulses that ideally should engage the invited residents. Conversations that go on well into the night, into the late hours of serendipity and happenstance. The village is quiet then, a stillness that still resonates, that suddenly at dawn breaks out in resplendent birdsong, filling the air with their operatic arias.
It is when the conversation is mutual, both sides listening carefully to each other, taking in the ideas and precepts coming in from the other, that the residency has achieved a certain goal. On the one side, the endless stream of creativity and will to form, on the other, and coming out intensely from the sahelian landscape, her deeply layered strata of resonances and open-ended operatic chords. A vibrancy that embraces overwhelmingly those prepared to open up and listen in.
NEZAKET EKICI (* 1970 in Kirsehir, Turkey) is a performance artist living and working in Germany. Ekici’s impressive and energetic happenings combine humour with moments of pain and always demand a high level of physical endurance. Each performance is based on a task, which Ekici attempts again and again until she reaches a set goal or reaches a level of complete exhaustion. Although each performance is planned in advance, factors beyond the artist’s control affect its realisation to allow a place for risk and the possibility of failure. Ekici’s videos, installations and performances combine controversial content with aestheticising representation. A central role in her work is the tension between her Turkish origins and upbringing on the one hand and her living environment in Germany.
After graduating in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, she studied art at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Braunschweig and completed her master’s degree under her professor Marina Abramovic in 2004. She had her first retrospective at the Marta Herfrod in 2011/12. She was a fellow at the Tarabya Cultural Academy in Istanbul in 2013 and a fellow at the German Academy Villa Massimo in Rome in 2016. In 2018 she received the Paula Modersohn-Becker Art Prize, and in 2020 she was selected for the Berlin Senate Cultural Exchange Scholarship to participate in the ISCP residency programme in New York. Recent solo exhibitions include Haus am Waldsee, Berlin (2015), Villa Massimo, KAS Foundation Berlin (both 2017) and Neue Kunstverein Gießen (2020).
I find Africa very fascinating. I have already had the opportunity to develop art projects in Ghana and Nigeria on themes such as food, religion and dance. I am even more excited to get to know Burkina Faso, a new African country – to get to know the country, the people, the culture but especially the village Opera.
During my stay as artist-in-residence in the Opera Village, I would especially like to work with the local population. It is a great opportunity for me to get an insight into the school and the hospital. It would be wonderful to do a performance workshop with the children, the staff and also with the patients if possible, and to develop a performance with them. I am looking forward to getting to know the cultural scene in Burkina Faso. I would like to design and create costumes with local designers, meet performing artists, exchange with visual artists, dancers and develop projects together.
I am very grateful to the organization and the people in charge of the opera village for this opportunity!
Abrie Fourie (1969) was born in Pretoria, South Africa. Presently divides his time between Richmond, Northern Cape, South Africa, and Berlin, Germany. Fourie bases his practice mainly on photography and participates in teaching, publishing, and curatorial projects. Since 2005 he has been the co-director, curator, and facilitator for Modern Art Projects South Africa (http://map-southafrica.org/).
Fourie has had significant solo exhibitions at Camouflage, Brussels, Belgium (2003); Museum for African Art, New York, USA (2004); Forum d’art Contemporian, Sierre, Switzerland (2006) Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany (2012); Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa (2012); Iwalewa House, Bayreuth, Germany (2012); SCAD, Savannah, USA (2013); SCAD, Atlanta, USA (2014); University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa (2016); Galerie Wedding, Berlin, Germany (2018).
Fourie has exhibited in important group exhibitions internationally, including White Box Gallery, New York, USA (2000); KKNK, Oudtshoorn, South Africa (2002); Tama Art University Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2004); 51st Venice Biennial,Italy; Trienal De Luanda, Angola (2007); Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, Germany (2009); South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2010); Prison Neukölln, Berlin, Germany (2012); a project by IFA, in public space of Berlin (2013) and Stuttgart (2014); Triennial of Photography, Hamburg, Germany (2015); SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin (2017); Bamako Biennale of Photography, Mali (2019/2020); Times Art Center Berlin, Germany (2021) and most recently at the Experimental Gallery, Tjaden Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA (2021).
I am honoured to be invited to this year’s Opera Africa Village Resident Artist Program. I look forward to being present, embodied and inspired as a resident artist at the village by the legacy of Christoph Schlingensief and the privilege of living in Francis Kéré architecture. Due to the difficulties and high cost of travelling within the African continent, I am very thankful for the opportunity to experience an artist residency project on the continent as a South African. It will enable me to draw parallels and hopefully create new partnerships for the future.
I will continue my ‘walking process’ photographing things I observe—urban structures and old monuments, passageways and walls, flowers and rivers during my stay. Something hovering at the periphery of my consciousness moves to the fore as I capture the image with its mood and multiple meanings. From the dynamics of this methodological exploration, I intend to do a poetic and metaphoric investigation of local contemporary narratives of privilege, colonial legacy, migration and my Huguenot heritage.
TOSIN OTITOJU has published nine collections of poetry. She has also published fiction, including “Three Sisters”, which is a close-up on the lives of three women in a semirural existence.
She has several long-running themed blogs, including one for mathematics and one for immersion in the arts.
She was a Poincaré fellow at Caltech (USA) and received a National Honours medal from Nigeria, her home country.
WEBSITE (BOOKS): www.LifeLib.blogspot.com/p/books.html
WEBSITE (WORK): www.linkedin.com/in/tosin
“I’m preparing a novel titled YA, which will zoom in closely on the lives of four young characters. I’m also preparing three new poetry collections.
During the months at Village Opera, I hope to write many poems, some chapters of YA fiction or at least an elegant short story. There will be observation and activities, inspired by the children and the school(s), the women at the on-site clinic, the landscape, the library, multiple languages and new colleagues. It will be lovely. Thank you so much for inviting me. “
The Artist-in-Residence 2021 was created with the kind support of: