Musea Brugge announces the launch of a major solo exhibition by Otobong Nkanga in the St John’s Hospital

Underneath the Shade We Lay Grounded — 25.06 - 25.09.2022

From 25 June onwards, Musea Brugge will host an important and large-scale exhibition of works by the internationally renowned Nigerian-Belgian artist Otobong Nkanga in the St John’s Hospital.

Otobong Nkanga (°Kano, Nigeria 1974, now living and working in Antwerp) is recognised worldwide as one of today’s most promising contemporary artists. She is famed for her installations and performances, in which she focuses on concepts such as identity; raw materials as a symbol for territory, power and conflict; exploitation of the landscape, people and labour; globalisation and transformation. 

The exhibition, entitled Underneath the Shade We Lay Grounded, will take place on the ground floor and in the hospital’s impressive wooden attic, and will cover an area of more than 2,500m². 

In this ground-breaking exhibition, Nkanga seeks to create an intense dialogue with visitors, with the historic St John’s Hospital, and with Bruges. At this meaningful location, Nkanga wants to ‘heal’ visitors of their injuries, to ‘cure’ them through their connection with her art and through a dialogue with the works of, amongst others, Hans Memling and Jan Beerblock from the Musea Brugge collection. Central to this exhibition is the concept of grounding, a theme which runs throughout the entire exhibition display. In this way, she reconnects people with their material, spiritual and cultural environment.

Taste of a Stone

For the ground floor rooms in the St John’s Hospital, Otobong Nkanga has developed a new version of Taste of a Stone. In the white, stone-strewn landscape of this total installation – for which she uses no less than 50 tons of white pebbles and stones – she has created a refuge for reflection, dialogue and recovery. At the same time, she also invites visitors to make new connections on and through these stones. ​ 

In this way, Taste of a Stone also serves as a free podium for word, music, song and performance, allowing the dynamic so generated to become part of the work of art. Further themes include loss, death and rebirth, which are explored in monumental tapestries and textile structures that cover the walls of the museum.


For the magnificent attic of the St John’s Hospital – famous for its original wooden roof trusses, which are amongst the best preserved in Europe – Nkanga has created another new version of her well-known sculptural work Anamnesis, comprised from the herbs, spices and other raw materials that used to be traded in Bruges. In this way, she connects visitors not only with the memory of Bruges’ past, but also with the original trade routes between Europe and Africa.

Otobong Nkanga concludes her exhibition outside the walls of the museum, in the herb garden of the old pharmacy, where she has intertwined a new poetical structure with the original herbs grown in the garden since medieval times.

Praktische informatie

Otobong Nkanga
Underneath the Shade We Lay Grounded
25.06 - 25.09.2022
Curator of the exhibition: Michel Dewilde ​
St John’s Hospital ​ ​
Mariastraat 38 , 8000 Bruges ​

Press conference
24 June 2022, 11.00 ​
Please confirm attendance via


To accompany the exhibition, a catalogue of the same name will be published by Hannibal Books, with texts contributed by Koyo Kouoh, executive director and senior curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, and Omar Kholeif, director of collections and senior curator at the Sharjah Art Foundation. Other contributors include Michel Dewilde, curator of contemporary art at Musea Brugge and Elisa Bonduel, who is attached to the faculty of medieval history at the University of Ghent.

  • 23 x 27.5 cm
  • Ca. 260 pages
  • Hardcover
  • Quadrichrome
  • Bilingual edition English-Dutch
  • ISBN 978 94 6436 643 3
  • € 45.00

About Otobong Nkanga

© Willeke Machiels
© Willeke Machiels

Otobong Nkanga (1974 – Kano, Nigeria) is a visual and performance artist, who lives and works in Antwerp. Nkanga focuses on concepts such as identity; raw materials as a symbol for territory, power and conflict; exploitation of the landscape, people and labour; globalisation and transformation. Nkanga’s oeuvre is multi-faceted, including drawings, performances, sculptures and other media. 

Otobong Nkanga is regarded worldwide as one of today’s most promising contemporary artists. She has already built up an impressive track record of success, with exhibitions in the Tate Modern in London, Biennale d’art contemporain in Lyon, M HKA in Antwerp, Documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel, and Kunsthaus Bregenz. 

She was the first laureate of the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award (Oslo, 2019), and in addition has received the Peter Weiss Award (Bochum, 2019), a Special Mention Award at the 58th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale (Venice, 2019), the Ultima for Visual Art (Brussels, 2019), the Belgian Art Prize (Brussels, 2017) and the 8th Yanghyun Art Prize (Seoul, 2015).


About the St John’s Hospital 

© Musea Brugge
© Musea Brugge

The St John’s Hospital is one of the oldest hospital buildings in Europe, dating from the middle of the 12th century. Originally, these early ‘hospitals’ were not medical hospitals as we know them today, but were more a kind of hostel or hospice, where food and shelter were given to many different kinds of guests in need: pilgrims, travellers, merchants, passers-by, the homeless, the sick, the elderly… During this early period, the medical care provided was only minimal , although mental and spiritual care was offered by the many priests, monks and nuns who worked in such facilities. 

Today, the medieval infirmary wards and the adjacent church and chapel are home to an impressive collection of archive material, works of art and medical implements, plus seven masterpieces by Hans Memling, including the famous St Ursula Shrine. The museum also contains the old hospital pharmacy and the Diksmuide attic, the oak trusses of which are amongst the oldest and most monumental in Europe.

At the start of February 2023, following the exhibition ‘Face to face with death’, the St John’s Hospital will temporarily close its doors for the implementation of a thorough programme of renovation works. The museum will be restyled, as well as being given a revised and updated permanent collection.

Based on universal themes, the new museum will tell relevant, contemporary and stimulating stories about our collection, the historic hospital site – including the old pharmacy and herb garden – ​ and the history of medical care through the ages. In short, it will be a place that speaks to the heart.

The new St John’s Hospital will open its doors in the autumn of 2023.


About Musea Brugge

Musea Brugge connects its rich and diverse collection with people and society, with the past, the present and the future.

Musea Brugge is internationally known and respected for the richness of its collections and, in particular, for its outstanding collection of 15th and 16th century masterpieces from the Southern Netherlands. In addition to displaying its permanent collections and organising temporary exhibitions of the art of the past, Musea Brugge also regularly invites contemporary artists to develop projects that can enter into dialogue with a location, collection or works of a particular artist.

For example, in 2003 the South African photographer Santu Mofokeng brought his ‘Chasing Shadows’ exhibition to the St John’s Hospital and in 2017 the ‘Orifeus and Oublietta’ project of the Iranian artist Barbad Golshiri interacted with and reflected on ‘The Last Judgement’ by Hieronymus Bosch. That same year, the South African artist William Kentridge was also made welcome in the St John’s Hospital with his remarkable exhibition ‘Smoke, Ashes, Fable’, which created a fascinating dialogue with the works of, amongst others, Marcel Broodthaers. Last but not least, during the 2020 ‘Memling Now’ exhibition the Syrian-American artist Diana Al-Hadid created an intriguing site-specific composition, inspired by various works of the early Renaissance master, Hans Memling.

The exhibition of works by Otobong Nkanga continues this fine tradition, whilst at the same time also symbolising the new museum policy of Musea Brugge and the creation of the new BRUSK art complex.

Selection of images

Micha Pycke
Club Paradis
+32 (0)486 680 070



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