In recognition of his work in Kassel and Documenta 14’s second venue, Athens, Olu Oguibe has received this year’s Arnold Bode Prize, to be presented by the city of Kassel.
Oguibe’s works are featured in both the exhibition’s host cities, Athens and Kassel. For Kassel, the artist erected a 52.5-foot tall obelisk inscribed with the words, “I was a stranger and you took me in,” written in German, Turkish, Arabic, and English—a reference to the thousands of refugees that Germany has received since 2015. He is also exhibiting an installation comprising documents and archival objects from the Nigerian Civil War at Athens’s National Museum of Contemporary Art. A statement issued by the Prize calls his Kassel work, titled Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge Monument (Monument for Strangers and Refugees), “an affirmation of the timeless, universal principles of attention and care towards all those affected by flight and persecution.
“For almost four decades, Olu Oguibe has been working as a conceptual artist and thinker with an interest in wide-ranging themes, including social and formal issues,” reads a press release. “Although the Igbo system of thought and existential principles play a critical role in Oguibe’s creative endeavors—dictating his approach to conceptualism, abstraction, and the form of the art object—the vital force behind his art is his experiences as a child in Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s.”
Singling out the work on the Königsplatz, which is called Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge Monument (Monument for Strangers and Refugees), the release states that it is an affirmation of the timeless, universal principles of attention and care towards all those affected by flight and persecution.
Oguibe was for some time professor of painting and African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut, but now works full time on his artistic practice from his home in Rockville, Connecticut. The prize comes with a €10,000 grant (about $11,300), and will be awarded in Kassel in November.