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Robert Preece

Robert Preece, a Contributing Editor for Sculpture magazine  was responsible for a feature on Sokari Douglas Camp, “All That Glitters Is Not What It Seems: A Conversation with Sokari Douglas Camp”. The piece appeared in Sculpture magazine, April 2016, Vol. 35 No. 3: 46-51. It introduced Douglas Camp in the following terms: “Born in the Niger Delta, Sokari Douglas Camp is well aware of the harmful effects of environmental pollution in the region. She has made this subject her primary focus, combining it with other challenging issues related to Nigeria and the broader world in works made with her preferred material – steel.

      Over the course of four decades, Douglas Camp has had more than 40 solo shows worldwide, at venues including the National Museum of African art in Washington, DC, (1999) and the museum of Mankind (a former branch of the British Museum in London (1995). She has also represented Britain and Nigeria in national exhibitions. In 2003, she was short-listed for London’s Fourth plinth, and in 2005, she was awarded a CBE in recognition of her services to art. In 2012, she exhibited All the world is now richer, a memorial commemorating the abolition of slavery, in the House of Commons at the British Parliament; it was also shown at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2014. She received degrees from the Royal College of Art and Central School of Art and Design, both in London, where she lives and works.

This was a substantial, wide-ranging feature, over six pages, extensively illustrated with colour photographs and installation views of Douglas Camp’s distinctive sculpture, including a full page reproduction of Looking for Grace, 2014, steel and nickel, 201 x 119 x 73 cm. Extracts as follows:

RPIn Jesus Loves Me (2012), are you referring to Christianity in a West African context?

SDC: Jesus Loves Me creates a pattern/picture of a black Jesus, but he ended up looking like a Roman emperor. Pentecostal churches are international in that you find them in Europe, America, and the United Kingdom – wherever there are Africans. I have attended these churches, and people dress to the nines for Jesus. I find this endearing. There was a picture of a young African girl in the Observer Magazine; she wore bright red lipstick and was dressed as a west African with a portrait of Jesus (white, as he is usually depicted) on her wrapper. I thought this was a great picture. What I find in the papers and books and on the internet excites me.

RPWhat are your artistic influences?

SDC: I am influenced by cross-cultural exchange. The simple idea that a traditional Nigerian festival can be put onto a Western stage tickles me, or that Shakespeare can be performed in Mandarin. As a child I was influenced by the choreographer Peggy Harper. She produced festivals at Ibadan University, and I loved going to her shows. I grew up in a family with a history of painters, and Impressionist paintings decorated the walls of where I spent half terms. The layers of wealth of these transpositions are at the core of the ideas that I try to convey.

RPWhat should happen in the Niger Delta – and what might your role be?

SDCWe need to change and respect the environment in the Niger Delta. I do not really think I have a role to play. My aim is to be an artist, saying it as it is.


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click to show details of All That Glitters Is Not What It Seems: Sokari Douglas Camp interview