The Quintessential Art Of Zina Saro-Wiwa

Ranging from photography to film production to art curation, Zina Saro-Wiwa has created a niche for herself which has struck chords in unusual places in our minds. Zina Saro-Wiwa is an artist whose passion for art is driven on the wheels of changing the way in which the world sees Africa.It is in the way that her art creates for us a unique exploration of highly personal African perspective and emotional panorama. Some of her collections include the “invisible man”, a photography series with a theme similar to“the faceless man”.

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Zina Saro-Wiwa also recently documented another photography series titled “Men of the Ogele”. She is the first person to have ever captured these masqueraded men from Ogoniland, a rural area in Porthacourt on Camera. Her photography captures the essence of their culture and creates for us a way in which we can relate with this masquerade section of the history of a people that we might not be very familiar with.
Like many parts of rural Africa, it has its own masquerading culture. Most masquerades were created far in the past before anyone can remember when or how they emerged. Traditionally tied to farming cycles, a masked performer would perform for audiences surrounded by drummers and flautists at specific times of the year like yam harvest or New Year. Masquerades existed and still exist to augur good luck for planting seasons, for entertainment and also as a form of social control

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ZinaSaro-Wiwa also creates short films which are intrinsically different from the usual videos that emanate in hordes from the Nigerian movie industry. One of my favourites was the “Deliverance of Comfort”, which was shot in 2010.In the video, she makes use of the voice over technique so that the voice of the narrator tells the story while the actors only act whilst saying nothing. The narrator starts by describing to us the characteristics of the ogbanje spirit and how it is usually dealt with. The story then takes us on a journey of the life of this young girl named Comfort who is considered an ogbanje. Comfort is put through many tribulations by the priests who try to cast the ogbanje spirit out of her but her spirit still triumphs, even in death. Zina Saro-Wiwa shows us how Comfort still paints her face, dances on tomatoes in the market square, and is seen playing and jumping around, happy and triumphant regardless of the things that she has been put through and then later goes back knocking on the door of the priests, awaiting her rebirth.

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The attention to detail and the upbeat rhythm of ZinaSaroWiwa’s films and photography would keep you glued to your seat. She manages to give her viewers the feel that they’re in a theatre watching a live drama in the way that the scenes seamlessly flow into each other. Her art is special because it carries various aspects of unpopular Nigerian history and culture on its shoulders. ZinaSaroWiwa is definitely someone we hope to see more from in the near future.

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