Eca Eps’ first UK solo exhibition is funded by Arts Council England, in collaboration with Fierce performance arts festival & SHOUT festival. From Chibok to Calais is at ORT gallery until 11th November.
Installation view photographs by Marcin Sz
Performance stills by Sammim Abbas
Exhibition film by Jonnie Dean
Above, installation view at Ort gallery
Above, performance of from Chibok to Calais at Fierce Festival
In the vein of much contemporary response to geopolitical change, Eca Eps (Nigeria) explores the chaos presented by conflict, migration and the polarised responses that ensue. But From Chibok to Calais unexpectedly draws on materials associated with environmental deprivation to shift the emphasis onto the reality of displacement and survival.
In the main exhibition, water is presented in changing states; frozen saltwater, emergency water sachets and a performance film of running water accompanied by the sound of a water pumping machine.
Entrance into the gallery show requires the audience to walk on a path leading to a mound of soil which is stopped abruptly by a wall of text. Closer inspection reveals them to be an instruction of the route suggested in the show’s title, but with further instructions on a return journey alluding to a failed trip or deportation.
A film shows performances of Walk this Earth (2015-2017) in which the artist marches on Nigerian soil, revealing a request for continued participation of this act of protest, as audiences leave their own mark on the soil.
A large wall canvas maps a locality in Chibok with soil collected from various Anglicised African countries, with each said to impose the strictest restrictions on women and gay rights administered under British colonial law.
The prevalence of water follows on in the live performance in which the sachets become weaponised as water bombs thrown at the performer, who persistently reads out the instructions of the route. The exercise becomes arresting when a barking police dog accosts the reader in what becomes a competing battle of will over terror. The placement of the performance in an unlit laundry room in the Moseley Victorian swimming baths made for an experience of chaos and disorientation.
Understatedly, From Chibok to Calais foreruns Nigeria’s latest big crisis in addition to its fight against terrorism in a country where a quarter of a million people were killed by drought in 2017 alone. It comes as no surprise that the number of Nigerians crossing the Mediterranean in 2017 frequently surpassed all other nationalities, and of those, a reported 50,000 were women and girls.
Having examined gender and conflict in an earlier work Boko: An Archive of Terror (2014) Eca Eps’ From Chibok To Calais is a reminder of the continued desperation of being female in Nigeria.