LB°24 Participants

Em’kal Eyongakpa

Em'kal Eyongakpa, nkawriters t_iv/ nɛwɛt mmɨk 27ii/ bɛtok babhi_babhi-bɛrat XXI-r [babhi-manyɛp/ babhi-bawɛt], 2017 – ongoing. Installation view from Havremagasinet länskonsthall Boden. The Luleå Biennial 2024. Foto: LKP

Em'kal Eyongakpa (b. 1981, Manyu, Cameroons) approaches the experienced, the unknown, as well as collective histories through a ritual use of repetition and transformation.

His ideas increasingly draw from indigenous knowledge systems, ethnobotany, applied mycology and technology. His installations are often interwoven experiences which blur the boundaries of the media employed. Presented as transcriptions, within explored spaces and processes, these encounters habitually mimic and evoke elements from natural processes and phenomena.

On view on at Havremagasinet, Boden

nkawriters t_iv/ nɛwɛt mmɨk 27ii/ bɛtok babhi_babhi-bɛrat XXI-r [babhi-manyɛp/ babhi-bawɛt], 2017 – ongoing.

Sound sculptures, wooden platform, ammunition boxes, ammunition canisters, military helmets, mechanical typewriters, membranophones, plant fibres, nets, tubes, water, electronic interfaces, light score.

At the end of November 2023, Eyongakpa spent time around a refugee settlement in South East Nigeria, his second workplace in the past 8 years. During that stay, he conducted recording sessions with displaced knowledge keepers from “ekoi” groups in the Cameroons. Later in December 2023, he visited Boden and Jokkmokk in Norrbotten. In both regions, he searched into ancient indigenous means of community preservation, methods of self-defence, and self-determination which led him to explore the possible links between rhythmic structures and oral communication methods. For instance indigenous instruments like the Sámi drums and the Nsibidi glyphs, an ancient system of communication of an indigenous group from southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon in the Cross River region.

During the development of his different stays in the refugee settlement in South East Nigeria, Eyongakpa learned about a natural pulse that has been located around the Bight of Bonny. The Bight of Bonny is a wide bay at the end of the Gulf of Guinea, known for being the third largest oil reserve in West Africa. The interesting phenomenon of the natural pulses at the Bight of Bonny, has been measured to happen at intervals between 26 and 28 seconds (0.036–0.038 Hz). And they are believed to be generated by reflected storm waves, originating from weather systems such as tropical storms and hurricanes, which propagate across the ocean surface and interact with the topography of the seabed. When these waves encounter shallower depths, they can be reflected back towards the surface, causing a rhythmic pulsation in the water.

The pulse, the drums and the Nsibidi glyphs method have formed the basis of the creation of abstract markings/ writings and the making of new variant polyrhythmic hybrid instruments denoted Nkawritters that constitute the basis of the presented work. Nkawriters are hybrid polyrhythmic beat generators/ drum machines or instruments made from adaptations of Indigenous membranophones and mechanical typewriters.

The work presents new types of instruments ranging from custom-made platforms with audio transmission devices, membranophones with resonators including military helmets, calabashes and hardened plant fibres, and others. The work brings the pulses of the Bight of Bonny as a sound to be contemplated in dialogue with recordings made from varied acoustic spaces in Boden, from water under the ice, to recordings within and around the Rödbergsfortet fortress.

Eyongakpa’s intervention re-signifies the exhibition space in the basement of Havremagasinet, into a refuge akin to a cave with a layered soundscape transcribed into a light score via interfaces recently made by the artist and partners. During his visit in Boden, a signpost by the Rödbergsfortet reads “restricted area, entry forbidden to Aliens”. As Eyongakpa explores the fortress, recording with a Nkawriter, he contemplates the idea of an alien pulse from the Gulf of Guinea, alien bodies (African bodies), alien home and abroad, literally and metaphorically, especially in relation to the influx of displaced people to Boden.

Em'kal Eyongakpa holds degrees in botany and ecology from the university of Yaoundé and was resident at Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. Eyongakpa’s works have been included in biennials such as the Ijssel Biennial, NL (2023), 39th EVA international biennial, IE (2021), the 13th Sharjah biennial, UAE (2017), 32nd Bienal de São Paulo, BR (2016). Eyongakpa is also known for his community research project spaces and autonomous art hubs such as KHaL!SHRINE Yaoundé (2007–2012), Bɔ Bɛtɔk/ ɛfukuyu, Gulf of Guinea/Western Europe (2017–).