Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Will I still carry water when I am a dead woman, 2013, Photo Credit-E

Upcoming exhibition at the Idea Lab

Wura-Natasha Ogunji:

earth, body, spirit

August 26, 2022 - February 10, 2023

Curated by Phillip Townsend, Curator of Art



Wura-Natasha Ogunji: earth, body, spirit features never-before-seen drawings and a video by U.S-born Nigeria-based artist Wura-Natasha Ogunji. The exhibition considers the relationships between the human body, ancestral spirits, and the environments they inhabit. Exploring the curiosities of space, place, and time, Ogunji maps journeys of transcendence, multiplicity, and labor by populating vast landscapes—real and imagined—with birds, bodies of water, and portraits of herself and loved ones. 

In elaborately sewn drawings that are hand-stitched into architectural tracing paper, Ogunji pictures the possibilities that exist on, in, and between multi-dimensional elemental spaces. Threads in the colors deep blue and green, iridescent white, and vibrant red, pearlescent colored inks, acrylic paint, and colored pencils add dimension and depth to the smooth and sometimes furrowed surface of the works’ delicate yellow paper. These materials give body to figures in moments of ethereal connectivity. Ogunji situates them in and alongside water, land, and the sky, spheres often associated with creation myths. In this way, she charts the geographical and psychic distance between Africa and the Americas and between the living and ancestors, as the artist writes, "I often think about what's happening below the water, the depth, what's under and what's carried and balance—what's happening on either side of the sea."

The daily interactions and activities in Nigeria's bustling capital that inspire Ogunji are apparent in Will I still carry water when I am a dead woman? (2013). The video documents a Lagos-based performance that entails the artist and six other women participants hauling large plastic containers of water through the city. The performance draws from Egungun masquerades—a visible manifestation of the spirits of departed ancestors—to highlight the porosity between the physical and spiritual realms. Ogunji’s performance also allows the women’s bodies to occupy a sacred and dynamic space traditionally reserved for men. At the same time, the performers' arduous trek draws attention to women’s labor and questions whether it exists beyond the physical realm and into the afterlife.

Wura-Natasha Ogunji: earth, body, spirit offers an expansive view of the artist's complex, dreamlike environments. The works on display take viewers on a lyrical journey in which lines, colors, shapes, and figures represent something much more profound than what can be understood through a single glance. 


Curated by Phillip Townsend, Curator of Art

Opening Reception: August 25, 2022