Nnenna Okore’s large scale sculptures stem from her early-life experiences, addressing concepts of recycling, transformation, and regeneration of forms constructed by natural materials: found paper, fibers, coffee, and clay, often sourced from West Africa. Okore, who studied under El Anatsui, creates organic and twisted structures that mimic the intricacies of the fabric, trees, bark, and topography familiar from her childhood in Nigeria. Okore’s manually repetitive techniques of fraying, tearing, teasing, weaving, dyeing, waxing, accumulating, and sewing recall her childhood experiences, where she watched and participated in daily manual activities, like cooking, washing, harvesting, and fabricating brooms. Okore’s elaborate sculptures interact with their environments; she often strategically lights the work to cast shadows and highlight particular aspects of the work. She sometimes pairs her sculptures with ambient sounds recalling her childhood in Nigeria or video projections. Okore’s work often surrounds the viewer, with installations extending up the walls and onto the ceiling or into the center of the room.
Okore’s work has been exhibited widely internationally, including shows at the Blachere Fondation Art Center in France, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporic Art in New York, and at Princeton University, among many others. Okore has been reviewed in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and the Guardian. She was a 2012 Fulbright Fellow, for which she lived and worked in Nigeria; she has also received grants and residencies around the world, including in the United States, India, Mexico, and Swaziland.