“Wata kulture; wata kulture
Multicultural melting pot.
Water conditioned cultural states,
Changing hats and different tongues
Scribes of a long-forgotten clan.
Crossed rivers. Crossing rivers
Products crossing waterways.
Cross River. Crossing rivers
Cross River cosmology.
Across the border. All in order
Wata kulture; wata kulture
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, Em’kal 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 Em’kal 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.
In total there are three tailored ‘stations’ within the studio in Amsterdam: an analogue shrine-space, mɔ ntaï Tabindɛ, which translates from Kɛnyaŋ as 'little Tabindé's cave'; a second analogue space called njyé mbieven, where footnotes and conversations with acoustic artists, musicians and poets take place; and MbiEshobi lounge, where collective inter-sessions take place with the use of arhgbrou 4.3, a quad speaker setup with three subwoofers.
Image above: Em'kal Eyongakpa, Tahjèsè #3i / barɨŋbáchɔ́kɔrɔk #4, installation view (detail), The Showroom, London, 2019. Courtesy of Max Colson
Em'kal Eyongakpa was born in Mamfe, Cameroons and is a Dutch resident, currently based in Amsterdam. His practice extends to self-organised community research spaces and autonomous art hubs, from KHaL! SHRINE in Yaounde (2007-2012) to the recent research platform and fund Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk / ɛfukuyu. Eyongakpa holds degrees in Plant biology and Ecology from the University of Yaounde 1, Cameroon, and was a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. His work has recently been exhibited at the Jakarta Biennale (2017), 13th Sharjah biennial (2017), La Biennale de Montreal (2016), 32nd Bienal de Sao Paulo (2016), 9th and 10th Bamako Encounters (2011, 2015) and 10th Dak'art Biennale (2012).
For Em’kal, his current studio base in Amsterdam is conceptualised as a network of collaborative live-work spaces in which he hosts events and interventions with an ever-growing constellation of collaborators. He names this symbolic, collective space Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk, which translates from Kɛnyaŋ as ‘children/people of the community, village, or nation state’. Selected recordings of live events, studio sessions, and work-in-progress during hosted residencies are also presented and shared for wider audiences via his ɛfúkúyú blog online
In this video documenting a solo session within Mɔ́ ntai tabindɛ, Em’kal draws from and revisits a poem he wrote titled Border Palaver, written in Berlin in 2014, echoing his enduring, visceral engagement with liminal states, portals and border zones, through a political and poetic lens.
The words of the poem reflect upon two post-war walls marking new borders that emerged following the defeat of Germany during the twin World Wars: the ‘Mungo Border’, which was drawn up between former Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon after Germany’s surrender in World War One; and The Berlin Wall, built after World War Two.
“These hosted sessions continue to reflect on ideas relating to utopia and dystopia, on lands with cultures linked to water, be they occupied / free; physical / ideal; literal/ metaphorical.” - Em’kal Eyongakpa
Video above: Em'kal Eyongakpa, live session recorded at mɔ ntaï tabindɛ, analog studio/sound sculpture within Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk Bijlmer, Amsterdam, June 2020.