Josèfa Ntjam is an artist, performer and writer whose practice combines sculpture, photomontage,film and sound. Gleaning the raw material of her work from the internet, books on natural sciences and photographic archives, Ntjam uses assemblage – of images, words, sounds, and stories – as a method to deconstruct hegemonic discourses on origin, identity and race.
Her work weaves multiple narratives drawn from investigations into historical events, scientific functions and philosophical concepts, to which she confronts references to African mythology, ancestral rituals, religious symbolism and science-fiction. These apparently heterogeneous discourses and iconographies are marshalled together in an effort to re-appropriate History while speculating on not-yet-determined 3 space-times – interstitial worlds where systems of perception and naming of fixed (id)entities no longer operate.
From there, Ntjam composes utopian cartographies and ontological fictions in which technological fantasy, intergalactic voyages and hypothetical underwater civilizations become the matrix for a practice of emancipation that promotes the emergence of inclusive, processual and resilient communities.
Unknown Aquazone - AfriKIKK
The Unknown Aquazone is an aquarium in which Josèfa Ntjam intertwines mythical past and speculative futures by drawing on a variety of water-related myths: from Mami Wata – a voodoo figure and fish-woman divinity venerated in much of Africa – to the ultra-technological universe created by the Detroit electro-musicians Drexciya in the 1990s – the Drexciyans being an imaginary people living in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, descendants of the pregnant African women thrown into the sea from slave ships.
Named after Drexciya’s fourth album (released in 1994), the Unknown Aquazone combines images drawn from family archives, microscopic views of everyday objects and organic materials, as well as photographs of revolutionaries who fought for Cameroon’s independence, including Ruben Um Nyobè (1913–58) and Marthe Ekemeyong Moumié (1931–2009).
Ntjam weaved personal stories with reminiscences of historical events to create the large-scale photomontages covering the sides of the sculpture, inviting the viewer to discover, reconnect and interpret their underlying relationships. Through this process, the artist seeks a reversal of our viewpoint, transforming the passive subject – observed through the aquarium – into the active protagonist of a story that remains to be told. Likewise, the stalagmites and termite mounds inside the sculpture suggest the formation of an underground network of organic forms steering future revolts.