Sokari Douglas Camp is a Nigerian sculptor whom most art fanatics, including Tunde Folawiyo, are probably aware of. Born in 1958, in Buguma (a Kalabari town in the south of Nigeria), Camp moved to London when she was 25, but has continued to return to her homeland regularly. Her work has been exhibited in the USA, New Zealand, Japan, Europe and Great Britain and she has been the recipient of numerous honours, awards and grants over the years, including the Henry Moore Foundation bursary.
Some of her most notable solo exhibitions are Imagined Steel at the Lowry Arts Centre in Manchester, and Spirits in Steel; the art of the Kalabari Masquerade. She also worked with Ground Force to develop a sculpture for the British Museum’s African Garden; this was completed in 2005. During the same year, she was named as a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire). In addition to this, Camp has been commissioned to create several public memorial sculptures, one of which was the Living Memorial, made in honour of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Camp received most of her education during the late seventies and early eighties, in both the USA and England; first attending the California College of Arts and Crafts, and then receiving her bachelor’s degree from the Central School of Art and Design in London. Shortly after this, she gained a master’s from the Royal College of Art. (1) One of her first major shows was held two years after she received her MA; entitled Echoes of the Kalabari, it was held in the National Museum of African Art in Washington.
Those who, like Tunde Folawiyo, are interested in the work of African artists, may be aware that throughout her career, Camp has been fascinated by Kalabari culture, and has based many of her pieces around this theme. She favours modern sculptural techniques, and uses these to create figurative, semi-abstract pieces which are inspired by the colours, emotions, movements and sounds typically associated with important Kalabari events, such as festivals, regattas, plays, funerals and masquerades. Steel is often her material of choice; this is primarily due to the fact that Kalabari women are not allowed to carve using this particular material; and so for Camp, using steel is a way for her to transcend a cultural, gender-based boundary.