Born 1994 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Currently lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa
Nicola Roos was born in 1994 in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. She lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. She attended the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, graduating in 2017 with the Michaelis Prize. She produces life-size figurative sculpture, primarily utilizing used inner tire tubes, and considers the work to be an investigation of 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.
Roos creates life-size sculptures based on much-forgotten historical figures, bringing their stories and the residual cultural impact of these narratives to light. Looking back hundreds of years at individuals who have become what she refers to as “mytho-historical characters,” Roos incorporates conceptual and visual elements in her work that relate to the ways these stories have been interpreted and re-imagined.
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.