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Sokari Douglas Camp, Asoebi, or Lace, Sweat and Tears, steel
Made in London, AD 2005
Sokari Douglas Camp was born in 1958 in Buguma, Nigeria. This is the cultural capital of the Kalabari people, who live on twenty-three islands in the Niger Delta. She moved to Britain as a child and attended the Central School of Art and Design in London from 1980 to 1983. Now a world renowned sculptor working in galvanised steel, the imagery of the Kalabari culture remains central to her work.
This stunning, custom-made water sculpture was the centre-piece for the Ground Force Africa Garden. It consists of five galvanised steel figures of Nigerian women, each nearly 2.5 metres in height and brightly painted in pink and green. These female figures are collectively described by the Yoruba concept of 'Asoebi'. The nearest English equivalent might be 'blood, sweat and tears', suggesting the beauty, suffering and indomitable spirit of the Kalabari people.
Douglas Camp regularly visits family in the Niger Delta. Here she has observed the changes which political pressures and industrialization, in particular the discovery of oil, have brought to their lives. Pollution is bringing an end to some of the traditional activities she remembers from her childhood, such as the harvesting of mangrove roots for the oysters that cling to them.
Despite these changes, masquerade remains an important element of contemporary Kalabari culture. This is reflected by a masquerade figure made by Douglas Camp: Otobo or hippopotamus. This powerful work is displayed in the British Museum's Sainsbury African Galleries (Room 25).
, Spirits in steel: the art of t (American Museum of Natural History, 1998)
J. Mack (ed.), Africa: arts and cultures (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)