Abena Motaboli

Abena Motaboli stands in a wheat field in front of a lake wearing a yellow sweater and black pants. She smiles looking directly at the viewer.

Abena Motaboli

Land Reciprocity Program Developer
Center for Humans & Nature

Abena Motaboli (she/her) is a Basotho – Ghanian, educator, interdisciplinary artist, and writer based in Chicago. She grew up in Lesotho, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, before moving to the U.S where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at Columbia College Chicago and at L’institut Catholique de Paris, France.

Her practice is interdisciplinary, performative, and experimental. She is inspired by plants, nature, sustainability, and our living world. Motaboli finds joy in using pigments of the earth, working with flowers and the plants around her through natural dyeing and creating art from ephemeral materials. She is also interested in reading the land, tracing the route of colonialism through the plants and stories told by plants she feels connected to such as tea and coffee, while deeply listening to them. Her use of tea stems back to her childhood, where she grew up surrounded by numerous tea ceremonies and storytelling with visitors over tea.

Through her artwork as an immigrant, she is interested in exploring displacement, the African diaspora, the loss of the sense of home and the need to reconnect to our Ki and Kin. She invites the audience to find a space to contemplate through installation, written work, or her abstract work.

One of her core values from her home country is “Ubuntu” translating to I am because we are or the spirit of interconnectedness. Over the past six years, these values have led her to engage through the Chicago Park District, the Garfield Park Conservatory, community gardens, immigrant centers, and other organizations in the South and West sides of Chicago through art making with a focus on social and ecological justice.

Motaboli has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibits such as SOFA Chicago, Bhavan Gallery based in London, Woman Made Gallery, DIFFA Pop-Up Gold Coast Gallery, and Aqua Art Miami to name a few, her work is also placed in private collections throughout the U.S. Motaboli also has a few poems published through Northeastern Illinois University’s SEEDS Literary and Visual Arts Journal and the Garfield Park Conservatory.

(Bio image: Photo taken by Kristie Kahns for a feature in Sixty Inches From the Center.)

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