Sokari Douglas Camp is a London-based artist who was born in Buguma, Rivers State, Nigeria. She is known internationally for her monumental sculptural works, which address the legacies of slavery, issues of power and gender, and the climate crisis.
Sokari Douglas Camp, All the World is now Richer (2012) Diaspora Pavilion (2017) Venice. Image by Francesco Allegretto
Sokari studied fine art at Central School of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. Sokari has represented Britain and Nigeria in National exhibitions and has had more than 40 solo shows worldwide, in venues such as National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute 1988-89, the Museum of Mankind, London 1994/5. Her public artworks include Battle Bus: Living Memorial for Ken Saro‐Wiwa (2006), a full-scale replica of a Nigerian steel bus, which stands as a monument to the late Niger Delta activist and writer.
Sokari works intuitively and on her own, she draws ideas and works on the scale suggested by her drawings. Works vary in size from 30cm to 5 meters and more depending on the project. She is interested in movement, clothing, Kalabari culture, theatre and the environment.
Working with steel is very physical, and she used to joke that this was a way of keeping warm in the UK, but she enjoys the repetition of welding cutting and bending metal into shape. She works with sheet steel and has recently started working with recycled oil barrels. These barrels are all over the world and familiar . Oil is a big feature in Sokari’s work because she comes from the Niger Delta where oil is the main produce. Her place of birth is unsafe to return to because of bad governance and pollution. Living in London and being gifted oil barrels by her local garage introduced this material to her work. This made Sokari think of her environment and the products that are derived from oil/ petroleum . Every thing seems to have an element of this product, for example, on my desk, my keyboard, pen, sellotape, head phones, my jumper, and the concoction which has created my lipstick.
Sokari edits and selects what to bring forth in her sculpture. For example, ‘Manmade’ focuses on a car and oil barrels for a platform (illustrating that asphalt is a petroleum derivative). These items for this installation sit in a wagon on a station in Japan. Trains are a fantastic form of transport and engineering, running on diesel or steam but needing oil to keep lubricated.This recent sculpture embraces our past and our current state, and our attachment to oil.
In 2003 Sokari was shortlisted for the Trafalgar Square Fourth Plinth. Her work is in permanent collections at The Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C., Setagaya Museum, Tokyo and the British Museum, London. In 2005 she was awarded a CBE in recognition of her services to art.