In 2019 The Showroom presented Tahjèsè #3i / barɨŋ báchɔ́kɔrɔk #4, an immersive sculptural environment and the first solo commission in the UK by Em’kal Eyongakpa. The installation forms part of an ongoing body of work for Eyongakpa titled sǒ bàtú (2016-), which includes live sonic sketches, processions and kinetic sound sculptures through which he evokes portals, crossings and the role of water in relation to resistance movements from the oil and natural gas-rich region of the Gulf of Guinea and beyond.
In Kɛnyaŋ, a language widely spoken in the Cross river basin in Northwest Cameroon, ‘sǒ’ translates as to bathe or to cleanse and ‘sǒ bàtú’ is to bathe one’s ears, or ear bath. The exhibition’s title has multiple readings, also drawn from indigenous aesthetics recurrent in the Manyu region, where the Cross and Manyu rivers converge.
‘Tahjèsè’ is a site in Eshobi, close to the confluence of the river Manyu, and is believed to be the site of a portal from where ‘barem’ (ancestral spirits) emerge to chant, luring people into long, unconscious states. ‘barɨŋ’ translates as veins, and ‘báchɔ́kɔrɔk’ as clock birds; so ‘barɨŋ báchɔ́kɔrɔk’ literally means veins of clock birds. These associations informed Eyongakpa's water-based sound sculptures or ‘rhythm generators’ at The Showroom, for sǒ bàtú reflections.
WATCH: two new video clips of Em'kal Eyongakpa’s immersive kinetic installation, with fragments of the accompanying soundscape, together with images of the total environment at The Showroom, 2019
Water culture; water culture
Multicultural melting pot.
Changing hats and different tongues
Scores of a long-forgotten clan.
Cross River. Crossing rivers
Products crossing waterways.
Cross River. Crossing rivers
Cross River cosmology.
Across the border. All in order
Water culture; water culture
Multicultural melting pot...
— Em’kal Eyongakpa
In a holistic extension of the core ideas, shrine-environment and sculptural-sonic materials used within Tahjèsè #3i / barɨŋ báchɔ́kɔrɔk #4 at The Showroom, Eyongakpa has continued developing these sound sculptures and polyrhythmic beat generators at his studio in Amsterdam. Assemblages of entangled sculptural, analog and electronic elements form a new live interface, which he names Kerakaraka +1i / e-Mungo West #7. This relies on the weather and the elements to create atmospheric environmental acoustics, as well as water and oil-run polyrhythm generators, and customised woodwind instruments.
For Eyongakpa the semi-enclosed space created by this sculptural/sonic environment becomes a shrine within which he continues to explore ever-new solo and collaborative improvisations in which to reflect, intercede and share sonic dialogues.
WATCH: Em'kal Eyongakpa's inter-session with Magdalena Akua Agyekum, recorded at mɔ ntaï tabindɛ, an analog studio and sound sculpture within Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk Bijlmer, Amsterdam, in August 2020.
This intimate video, recorded by a fixed camera, documents an initial conversation between Em’kal Eyongakpa and Magdalena Akua Agyekum within mɔ ntaï tabindɛ, which led to her subsequent residency in Amsterdam.
“So...drops like these make up rivers, and you decide where we stop the beat. We make a rhythm machine. And we tell a story. And so we see what happens...”
— Em’kal Eyongakpa with Magdalena Akua Agyekum
In a durational, spontaneous exchange, Em’kal experiments with kerakaraka +1/ eMungo West #7 whilst having a conversation with Magdalena; an improvised call-and-response. Using his analogue polyrhythm machine, dripping water is accompanied by an array of adapted indigenous, percussive and wind instruments from the Cross river basin in the Cameroons and beyond. Em’kal and Magdalena create textures and rhythms against irregular beats, creating counter points that provide a backdrop for their poetic, intuitive storytelling.
The 45 minute sequence was shot prior to Magdalena Akua Agyekum / azura pataku’s residency, The water hit me, in August 2020.
In January 2020, Em'kal developed a new project and installation titled kɛrakaraka #3-i / mɔ́ ntai bɛrrɛ as a commissioned intervention within the larger group exhibition Diaspora at Home at CCA Lagos, in partnership with Kadist, Paris.
Over the course of two days he delivered a series of sonic lectures and live sets. In this context, the work took shape as an installation of three ‘six-veined’ sound sculptures, titled kɛrakaraka #3-i, which include analog polyrhythm generators developed over the last couple of years and during Tahjèsè #3i / barɨŋ báchɔ́kɔrɔk #4 at The Showroom. These interacted with fragments from mɔ́ ntai bɛrrɛ, together forming a new multi-channel sound installation.
WATCH: Em’kal Eyongakpa, kɛrakaraka #3-i / mɔ́ ntai bɛrrɛ (excerpt). Day one of sonic lectures and live sets or ‘inter-sessions’ within the installation at CCA Lagos Library, 30 January 2020. Video footage courtesy of Kene Nwatu
LISTEN: to a recording of a collective inter-session devised by Em’kal with a group of collaborators, building upon their presence at the series of sonic lectures and live sets held at CCA Lagos Library. With with Jere Ikongio, Busayo Olowo, Soft Mix, Jibril Adewumi Africanana and Joshua Akubo
READ: scroll down for a fuller explanation of how Eyongakpa’s sculptural instruments are assembled and function as part of his wider installations
Tune in to a special, two-week screening of this video footage shot during Berlin-based, German/Ghanaian artist Magdalena Akua Agyekum’s time in residence with Em'kal Eyongakpa at Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk; foregrounding her participation as well as her authorship of the residency’s title, The water hit me.
This recorded warm-up session represents only a series of moments within the wider process of collective activity that took place throughout August; yet it provides a powerful testament to the spirit of solidarity created by such spaces of mutual support and creative exchange - urgent even more than ever in these times - between artists, writers, musicians, poets and creative practices worldwide.
WATCH: a live recording from one of the final days of Magdalena Akua Agyekum / azura pataku's residency The water hit me at mbì-ɛshobì, Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk / Bijlmer station in Amsterdam, August 2020.
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