Sokari Douglas Camp – A World Made of Steel

Primavera, 2015. Photo: October Gallery
‘Primavera’, 2015. Photo: October Gallery

Sokari Douglas Camp is an internationally renowned sculptor whose works are made primarily of steel. Her large scale sculptures often make reference to her Nigerian roots but at the same time representing contemporary international issues. The artist has represented Britain and Nigeria in various exhibitions along with over 40 solo shows around the world.

Back to her roots

Sokari Douglas Camp was born in 1958 in Bugama, Nigeria. She moved to England to attend school but frequently returned to Nigeria to visit her family and take part in Kalabari life activities. She actually works and resides in London. Many of her artworks are representative of the Kalabari culture.

Sokari Douglas Camp

The large, semi-abstract figures that she creates are inspired by the sounds, movements and colors of Kalabari masquerades, funerals, festivals and regattas. Douglas Camp is fascinated by the Kalabari culture. Using modern sculptural techniques, she expresses a unique creative vision as a product of both her African roots and influence from the West.

Crossing the boundaries

Back to her native country, Douglas Camp would not have been allowed to carve wood or sculpt in steel. Most women across Africa including Kalabari women are not allowed these kinds of practices and their roles in masquerades are limited. The famous sculptor broke the rules, just as she transcends the geographic boundaries, she also crosses the boundaries of male and female domains.

Notable Solo and Group Shows

As an acclaimed sculptor, Douglas Camp’s work has been presented in various solo and group shows around the world mainly in the UK, many European countries, Japan, New Zealand and even made it to the United States. Many of her human size sculptures can be found in private and public collections in every corner of the world.

Spirits in Steel – The Art of the Kalabari Masquerade (1998-1999) is among her notable solo shows at the American Museum of Natural History, New York. Another one of her famous works, Imagined Steel (2002-2003) at The Lowry Arts Centre, Manchester, which toured to the Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Llandudno, Brewery Art Centre in Cirencester to Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

She is one of the few female contemporary African artists to have her work in the permanent collections of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Setagaya Art Museum in Tokyo and the British Museum in London. In 2005, she became a Honorary Fellow of the University of the Arts London. In the same year she was awarded a CBE for her services to art.

Europe Supported by Africa and America , 2015. Photo: October Gallery

Her message through contemporary art

Douglas Camp’s work has found its path through touring and being displayed in rich environments and palaces where she stages humanity that is very often forgotten. Though influenced by the Western culture, her sculptures lead you back to her roots, back to Nigeria. While African culture is often represented by masks, Douglas Camp creates whole artworks, along with costumes which make up the Masquerade. Back in Nigeria, masks come with a costume, along with a set of spiritual and religious values and a festival which are all represented through her art.

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