Om Bori & Wura Ojungi




2024.04.10. 18.00-20.00


“Water entangles our bodies in relations of gift, debt, theft, complicity, differentiation, relation,” as hydrofeminist theorist Astrida Neimanis claims in her introduction to her seminal book, Bodies of Water (2017). It is the element that makes up most of the human body and interconnects us to other watery beings and the environment: the fluids that circulate in our bodies seep into the land and eventually find their way back into our systems, pure or polluted. As the mega-rich race to secure access to clean drinking water for their future generations, countries entangled in neocolonial relations across Africa are battling with water scarcity, and women are disproportionately burdened with the responsibility of providing water to their communities.

In their duo exhibition entitled Women/Water/Bodies, Berlin-based Hungarian artist Om BORI and Nigerian artist Wura-Natasha OGUNJI reflect on the fragile water distribution systems in Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria, respectively, and the role of women in the industry. The two artists capture the ways in which women’s bodies take the toll of carrying water, often quite literally on their backs, and examine how their lived experiences are inherently intertwined with environmental injustices and gender inequality in the region.

Om BORI’s multimedia work, pure water (2022) is centered around the voices of young women in Accra, Ghana’s capital, who make a living by selling small plastic bags of purified drinking water. Taking a documentary approach during her month-long research trip to Accra, Bori interviewed women about their livelihoods, working conditions and business strategies, recording their chants extolling the “purity” of their water. Creating a series of objects, videos and photographs, Bori’s work takes a prismatic look at the intertwined nature of female labor and environmental impact at different scales. As an outsider to Ghanian culture, the artist aimed to foster respectful collaboration with the participants, working with their consent and putting their voices at the heart of the project.

In Wura-Natasha OGUNJI’s performance, Will I still carry water when I am a dead woman?, which took place in Lagos, Nigeria in 2013, the artist and six other performers carried water kegs tied to their ankles across the city. Struck by the reality that the task of hauling water is largely carried out by women, Ogunji wanted to pose questions about the relationship of women, labor and the politics of change: “How much is enough? What is the tipping point in a society where people struggle to meet basic needs? When do people have an opportunity to rest, reflect, envision, imagine, and enact another way of being?”

The matching outfits and masks of the performers reference the traditional West-African Yoruba Egungun masquerade with an “Afrofuturist touch”. The masquerade, in which women are traditionally not allowed to perform, is an offering for the ancestors to seek protection and prosperity. Ogunji’s piece aims to rethink the categories of sacred and profane by showing the ritualistic quality of the mundane and arduous task of carrying water. The first version of this piece, performed solely by Ogunji, was created in 2011.

Curated by Veronika Molnár
Graphic design by Veronika Bátfai

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