About Nicola Roos
Since discovering the medium in 2015, I have primarily been working in life-size figurative sculptural installations constructed out of recycled rubber tyre tubing. I investigate the origins of civilization and society, as well as the ever-changing politics of national identity, collective memory and cultural belonging in the postcolonial world.
The point of reference for my 2015 debut installation, No Man’s Land, was the only black Samurai ever written into recorded history: a Mozambican slave, known only by the name of Yasuke, who was taken from his homeland and came to serve under an influential shogun in 16th century Japan. His legacy of cross-cultural exchange shifted the focus to this new world state of ethnographic modernity and the transient fixity of culture and tradition. My interest in colonial history and the commemoration of abstruse individuals was sparked by the little-known narrative of Yasuke and the myriad of socio-cultural implications that ripple outwards from this remarkable man in Africa and abroad.
My work suggests that this shifting state of culture and a resulting sense of rootlessness is so much more apparent at the dawn of what Okwui Enwezor calls post-Westernism – a possibly threatening, unstable no man’s land that we find ourselves in today. However, my characters are no longer individuals, but rather elements of an imagined realm beyond official history. They are the embodiment of a local cultural breakdown and a communal future where beliefs, assumptions and knowledge about place and culture can be deconstructed and re-negotiated.
Pictured: Nicola Roos
No Man's Land III Plaster of Paris, polyurethane foam, wood, nails, beads, used inner tyre tubes, cotton cloth, cotton cord. Approx. 1900 mm x 830 mm x 400 mm (excluding 800 mm x 800 mm x 200 mm base) 2015 KT Wong Foundation Collection, Cape Town, South Africa.
I graduated at the top of my class from the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, in May 2017.
I achieved 95% for my final-year body of work, DIS(re)MEMBERINGS.
I was also the recipient of the annually-awarded Michaelis Prize.
Pictured (from left to right at back): La Virgen (The Saviour), La Llorona (The Lamenter), La Chingada (The Bitch) & La Malinche (The Outsider) Front: La Lengua (The Tongue)
In the Media
Matthew Miller produced a short in-studio interview clip providing some background information about my inspiration and the historical contexts informing works from the "No Man's Land" and "DIS(re)MEMBERINGS" series. This video was created to accompany the Depart Foundation's Right at the Equator African contemporary art group exhibition that took place in Malibu, USA in February 2018. The three works from 2016/7 that were included in this exhibition, curated by Valerie Kabov and Sylvester Ogbechie, are La Chingada (The Bitch), El Mestizo (The Half-Blood) and Obisidan Samurai I (No Man's Land series).
As of September 2017, I am not available for any commissions. I have committed to a long-term project that will have my full attention until its completion.
I graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art with 95% in 2016. I am in charge of the conceptual development, design and technical processes and play the primary role in all the different stages of the development of a sculpture.
My partner in life and in business, Matthew recently completed a BSc in Information Technology. He has taken up a permanent position in studio now that he has finished his studies.
Liza-Mari joined my team in September 2020 after my previous assistant resigned in persuit of a career in fashion. Liza-Mari is a freelance model, social media strategist and web designer. In studio, assists with all aspects of the creative process.
Hooked on Sunshine is a small business founded in 2016 that offers crochet patterns, goods and lessons. I have been collaborating with Vanessa Smith and her mother, Jeanne Fischer, since mid-2018 in order to realise some complex crocheted and knitted costume pieces.
A three-part series of human/chair hybrid sculptures commenting on the objectification of women in contemporary society.
A bronze cast symbolising the "unmonumental" in the form of a network of inter-dependent socio-economic relationships within a corrupt democracy.
A bronze-cast fantastical skeletal structure in black ironsand focusing on the duality of man as represented by the Serpent of Eden in the Christian Bible.
A collection of four life-size figurative sculptures based on Yasuke, the only known samurai of African descent in Feudal Japan, that investigates tenets of de-traditionalisation and a sense of ethnographic "rootlessness".Series sold.
An installation exploring the parallel narratives of two indigenous women in the colonial era, La Malinche in Mexico and Krotoa-Eva in South Africa, and their effects on changing perceptions of femininity and socio-cultural belonging throughout the last five centuries.
A series of furniture-based sculptures originally created to serve as companion pieces to the figures of DIS(re)MEMBERINGS. These sculptures explore the relationship between material possessions and collective memory, especially focusing on objects that function in a liminal expanse where cultures and traditions collide. Series sold.
A return to Yasuke; this time interrogating the notion of "diasporic indigeneity" in the wake of nation-wide demands of the decolonisation and "Africanisation" of existing knowledge bases in South Africa and the broader African continent.
A late addition to DIS(re)MEMBERINGS as the companion sculpture to La Chingada (The Bitch), referencing Martín Cortés, illegitimate son of La Malinche and Hernándo Cortés. Martín was also the first noble-born child of mixed ethnographic heritage in Mexico during the Spanish Conquest and is seen as the ancestor of the mestizo people.
A re-visitation of the earlier "Hominis Ruinis" series, exploring dichotomous notions of domesticity and the inherent power of the feminine despite perception of women as material posessions or household objects.
This collaborative work between Nicola Roos and Matthew Miller is an exploration into the dichotomous nature of female beauty and its inherent connection to socio-cultural belonging in a slowly de-traditionalising world. It is not an attempt to answer questions as much as it is an anthropological conceptualisation of identity and cultural significance.
An exploration of the liminal space between African spirituality and the material world via an Egungun figure. "Egungun" in the broadest sense of the term, describes all types of Yoruba masquerades or masked/costumed figures. When used in a more specific sense, "Egungun" refers to the Yoruba masquerades (primarily performed in West Africa) that are connected to ancestor worship, or to the "ancestors" themselves as a collective power.
In reference to Ancient Egyptian mythology, this wood-and-steel scale represents the pursuit of truth and justice. According to this mythology, when the dead were judged before entering the afterlife, it was the white ostrich feather of Ma'at that their hearts were weighed against. If a balance was struck, the soul of the deceased was deemed worthy to meet the god Osiris in paradise. The weightlessness of the heart indicated that the soul was not fraught with evil. If the heart of the deceased was found to be heavier than the feather of Ma’at, it would be consumed by Ammit, a nightmarish monster of the Underworld. A continuation of the thematic concerns explored in Banana Republic, the Scale suggests that the corrupt soul of the new South Africa will soon be devoured by chaos.
Arnold Lehman Private Collection
New York, USA
David Altman Private Collection
Los Angeles, USA
KT Wong Foundation Collection
Cape Town, South Africa
Sovereign Trust Corporate Collection
Cape Town, South Africa
Grizelda Hall Private Collection
Cape Town, South Africa
University of South Africa (UNISA) Public Collection
Tshwane, South Africa
DaLima Private Collection
Zoot Nel Private Collection
Ard Voorman Private Collection
Rijn, The Netherlands