Profile: Fatimah Tuggar (1967-)

Fatimah Tuggar is a Nigerian visual artist who is now based in the United States. Tuggar’s video and digital work investigates the cultural and social impact of technology.

Personal life

Tuggar was born in Kaduna, Nigeria, in 1967.

She is now based in Toronto, Ontario, where she is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Art at the Ontario College of Art and Design University.

Education

Tuggar studied at Blackheath School of Art in London, England, before receiving a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute in the United States. Tuggar completed her MFA at Yale University in 1995. After graduating from Yale, she conducted a one-year postgraduate independent study at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She also attend Kano Corona and Queens Collage Yaba in Nigeria before attending Convent of the Holy Family in Littlehampton, Sussex in England.

Career and Works

Tuggar creates images, objects, installations and web-based instructive media artworks. They juxtapose scenes from African and Western daily life. This draws attention to the process involved and considers gendered subjectivity, belonging, and notions of progress. She has received grants from institutions such as W. A. Mellon Research Fellowship

The objects usually involve some kind of bricolage; combining two or more objects from Western Africa and their Western equivalent to talk about electricity, infrastructure, access and the reciprocal influences between technology and cultures. Similarly, her computer montages and video collage works bring together both video and photographs she shoots herself and found materials from commercials, magazines and archival footage. Meaning for Tuggar seems to lie in these juxtapositions which explore how media affects our daily lives. Overall Tuggar’s work uses strategies of deconstruction to challenge our perceptions and attachments to accustomed ways of looking. Her body of work conflates ideas about race, gender and class; disturbing our notions of subjectivity. Her work reflects her multifaceted identity and challenges the idea of a homogeneous Africa.

Her works comment on potentially sensitive themes such as ethnicity, technology and post-colonial culture. The artist chooses not to extend a didactic message, but rather to elucidate cultural nuances that go beyond obvious cross-cultural comparisons. For example, in her 1996 sculpture titled Turntable, Tuggar uses raffia discs in place of vinyl records. The artwork speaks about the ways in which the introduction of the gramophone influenced the development of local language. Because of the physical similarly between the vinyl and fai-fai in many Northern Nigerian languages vinyl record get its name from raffia disc. For instance in Hausa the raffia disc is called fai-fai and vinyl is fai-fain gramophone.

Specifically, the artist’s work illustrates how these issues coalesce through visual representational practices such as television commercials, Hollywood film, and product design. Fusion Cuisine, co-produced with the Kitchen (an experimental nonprofit arts center in New York), playfully reveals cold-war American fantasies of consumer technology as gendered emancipation and national progress while exposing the racial and geographic erasures that form the basis of these visions of the future. The video consists of two sets of footage: post–World War II American commercials advertising domestic technologies and targeted toward white American middle-class women and contemporary footage of African women videotaped by the artist in Nigeria. Fusion Cuisine shifts continuously between the archival filmstrips of postwar fantasies of modern life and suburbia and more recent images of domestic work and play in Nigeria.

In her computer montages and video collages, Tuggar brings together images that explore cultural nuances and the different relationships between people and power structures. In her web-based interactive works, participants can create their own collages by selecting animated elements and backgrounds. This process allows participants to construct or disrupt non-linear narratives. Her interactive animated collage, “Transient Transfer”, allows participants to create collages from scenes in Greensboro in 2011 or the Bronx in 2008 (see “Street Art, Street Life: From 1950s to Now” at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York). In her 2006 web project, Triad Raid, created as part of Rethinking Nordic Colonialism, Tuggar “engages the viewer/participant in a potentially loaded power space of making choices, or not choosing Action or lack of action in this digital environment animates elements to create a dynamic collage. This collage is constructed from: Characters icons and totems, Context landscapes and commodities, and Behaviors actions and interactions between all these elements. This encourages the creation of temporary non-linear narratives, which can be constructed or disrupted based on the choices made by the participant. A key factor is the awareness of choice and the consequences of exercising or choosing not to exercise this potential power.”

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