Olu Oguibe’s work was among the most prominently displayed in the city of Kassel, Germany, during Documenta 14—whenever you got off the tram at Königsplatz, you saw his gigantic black obelisk, inscribed with words from the Book of Matthew written in Turkish, Arabic, German, and English.
And now, in recognition of his work in Kassel and Documenta 14’s second venue, Athens, Oguibe has received this edition’s Arnold Bode Prize, presented by the city of Kassel.
“For almost four decades Olu Oguibe has been working as a conceptual artist and thinker with an interest in wide-ranging themes, including social and formal issues,” reads a press release. “Although the Igbo system of thought and existential principles play a critical role in Oguibe’s creative endeavors—dictating his approach to conceptualism, abstraction, and the form of the art object—the vital force behind his art is his experiences as a child in Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s.”
Singling out the work on the Königsplatz, which is called Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge Monument (Monument for Strangers and Refugees), the release states that “is an affirmation of the timeless, universal principles of attention and care towards all those affected by flight and persecution.”
Oguibe was for some time professor of painting and African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut, but now works full time on his artistic practice from his home in Rockville, Connecticut. The prize comes with a €10,000 grant (about $11,300), and will be awarded in Kassel in November.