Em’kal Eyongakpa

Oude Kerk, Amsterdam (18 Sept. – 26 Sept. 2021)

Em’kal Eyongakpa works primarily with sound and draws his ideas from indigenous knowledge systems, ethnobotany, applied mycology and technology. In the Oude Kerk, the experience of sound is often a collective one, a play of frequencies and architecture. With his new work entitled babhi–bεrat 21r, the artist Em’kal Eyongakpa makes the experience of sound in the Amsterdam’s oldest building a personal one too.

The multichannel sound sculpture exhibited at the Oude Kerk (18 Sept. – 26 Sept. 2021) is a fragment from babhi-manyɛp/ babhi-bawɛt, (series: mbaŋ). Translated from Kɛnyaŋ, a language widely spoken in Manyu (South west of present day Cameroon), Mbi means ‘path’, ‘route’, (pl babhi). Bawɛt means oil and manyɛp refers to water. Together babhi-manyɛp/ babhi-bawɛt would translate as ‘water ways’/ ‘oil ways’, ‘routes’. 

Eyongakpa’s sound experience resonates in the entire space via pulsating wooden platforms in the middle of the church. The platforms form a path onto which visitors can walk. They transcribe the unprocessed sound recordings the artist made during nightly rides/ processions through the city into a physical sound experience. Nature and outdoor sounds find their way into the space. Along the routes – where Eyongakpa made the recordings – are locations and streets that suggest historical and conceptual connections to resistance movements linked to water, natural gas/oil, and other resources from the Gulf of Guinea and beyond. Building on the idea of shared space and land, the artist interweaved these thoughts with the shared space of the Oude Kerk. Eyongakpa’s sound sculpture in the Oude Kerk is a special physical experience of sound in space that stimulates the ears, the body and the imagination.

About the artist

Em’kal Eyongakpa was initially trained as an ecologist and botanist the University of Yaoundé 1, before following the residency programme at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunst. His work raises questions about the environment, identity and freedom. Cameroon was subject to German colonial power until after the First World War and divided between France and the United Kingdom until after 1961, which is why Eyongakpa investigates the way political structures from the past still affect society today. In his studio in the Bijlmer, which is filled with sound equipment and home-made instruments, he makes music and sound compositions together with artists, scientists and local friends. Eyongakpa is also known for itinerant research spaces and autonomous art hubs: KHaL! SHRINE (Yaounde, 2007-2013) and Bɔɔ Bɛtɔk/ ɛfúkúyú (Amsterdam, 2017-present).