Zina Saro-Wiwa’s multimedia art connects with audiences through food, drink and tears

Saro-Wiwa’s approach to the camera is partially influenced by Nollywood (Nigerian Hollywood) cinema. Nollywood does not have a uniform style, but some common elements include unofficial sequels, low budgets, surreal aesthetics, and romantic dramas. Like the Nollywood film, Saro-Wiwa’s work is marked by the presence of the camera and a “just do it” mentality. This philosophy and aesthetic allow Saro-Wiwa to dramatize reality through her video art and photographic practice. In doing so, Saro-Wiwa is able to deal with painful real-life experiences by choreographing them for the camera, which is particularly evident in her 2011 installation Sarogua Mourning.

Sarogua Mourning grapples with the artist’s inability to mourn his father: poet, author and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. He was executed by the Nigerian military regime in 1995. Unable to mourn in the years following his death, Saro-Wiwa arranged a meeting with the camera where she allowed herself to go into a dark space of mourning. The composition of Mourning of Saraogua is cropped and reflects the peek-a-boo perspective of a peep show. There, Saro-Wiwa is shown bare-shouldered against red curtains weeping for 12 minutes. The piece is deeply moving, despite the very clear production strings that make it possible, namely the camera. Saro-Wiwa uses the camera in her multidisciplinary practice as a guide to revealing reality, a tool that can elicit real emotion that she and others can resist in their daily lives, out of the frame.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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