‘Worrying the Mask’: a performance-lecture-film

In this seminal performance-lecture-film, artist Zina Saro-Wiwa navigates the moral, philosophical and cultural conundrums that arise from the very existence of contemporary traditional African art. A large part of Saro-Wiwa’s artistic practice explores the masquerade traditions of Ogoniland, her ancestral ethnic group from the Niger Delta. Yet Saro-Wiwa’s hybrid identity has forced her to consider how African masks live concurrently in the West and in present-day Africa and how these African art worlds impact one another especially at a moment when restitution is being demanded. In Worrying the Mask, Saro-Wiwa challenges the call for the restitution of African art by privileging storytelling over geographical location. She exposes the desires and limitations of Ogoni storytelling to ask whether an object can represent a people at all. And she elucidates how contemporaneity informs the genre of “contemporary traditional African art,” suggesting that our attempts to understand and explain it may require a radical ontological shift. 

Pitt Rivers Museum Research Seminar in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology, Michaelmas 2023

Fridays, 12pm-1.30pm

In person at the Pitt Rivers Museum Lecture Theatre, except for Weeks 6 and 8, which are online only.

Convened by Elizabeth Hallam and Clare Harris