Wura Natasha Ogunj Interview: Beauty in the Streets of Lagos

Performance and visual artist Wura-Natasha Ogunji here shares her intense experience with the four-hour performance ‘Beauty’, where she and a group of other women have their hair braided together in a public space in Lagos, Nigeria.

“Men can be seen and heard in public in ways that women can’t.” Because Ogunji feels that the public space in Lagos feels very gendered – and men are seen and heard in ways that women aren’t – she wanted to explore “how the physical presence of a female body, in particular, interrupts ways of interacting.”

Doing the performance in a public space proved to be a challenge in many ways. Not only did the city workers try to get them to pay for using the public space, but they also had to consider the people around them, which made one of the performing women want to quit: “You’re kind of protected by the audience, but probably the audience is also your biggest foe.” In the end, however, the woman in question stayed on, commenting that she had drawn on the energy of the other women: “That was really lovely to experience –that you’re setting up these conditions where other people can experience the strength and power of their own bodies and presence.”

Wura-Natasha Ogunji (b. 1970) is a performance and visual artist, who works in a variety of mediums from work on paper to performance art and video. Ogunji often uses her own body to explore e.g. homeland, identity and the presence of women in public space in Lagos, Nigeria, and is part of a movement of first-generation artists of the African diaspora, who have chosen to relocate their art practice to the home country of their parents. She has received several awards, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2012), and has performed at prominent venues such as Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis. She divides her time between Austin, Texas and Lagos, Nigeria. For more about her see: http://wuraogunji.com/home.html

Wura-Natasha Ogunji was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen in connection to the Art Alive festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark in May 2016.

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Cover photo: Still from ‘Beauty’ (2013) by Wura-Natasha Ogunji
Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

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