Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa 21 Mar 2022 - 30 Apr 2022
Usen Obot Unit 5, 2021. Wood, metal screws, steel and acrylic colors, 120.4cm x 190cm X 2cm
In this body of work Obot seeks to re-contextualize and reimagine the ancient African practices of the ‘Ekpo’ society which predates the colonizing of Africa by centuries. Ekpo in in loose translation means “Ghost”. The ‘Ekpo’ society traditionally would be a group of initiated men whose role involved combining religion and governance to maintain peace and protect the community.
Through his choice of material, Obot revisits a space of communion with the ancestors much like the Ekpo initiates did centuries before. Wood is a sacred material within the Ekpo people. It is the material used to create intricate and detailed carved masks that are adorned by men in the sacred practice of invoking the spirits of the ancestors during ceremonial practices to celebrate and honour them.
In the order of the Ekpo society, families was entrusted through custodianship the management, care and narrative of each of the’Ekpo’ society’s various segments. Obot represents the different families (units) in portraiture style strategically leaving space for the unknown to be visible. He reimages the significance of unity in the family construct which is integral to social cohesion, empathy and community development. The family was instrumental in the successful administration and existence of not only the Ekpo society but the community in general. Through this he communicates the significance of the spirit world in African culture and to reiterate the integral value of African spirituality in the holistic creation and maintenance of social order.
Within the exhibition the pieces and range of materials share a holistic connection. The range of materials merged cohesively speak to the unification of people from all backgrounds coming together to create a society.