The Mangrove Banquet, is a feast performance for 50 people that took place at Blaffer Art Museum on the 19th November 2015. For the banquet Saro-Wiwa designed a five-course feast featuring ingredients from the Niger Delta crafted into new entities: periwinkle, palm oil, pineapple, hibiscus, roasted fish, alligator pepper, as well as locally brewed raffia palm gin flavored with medicinal tree bark. The event was presented and produced in conjunction with chef Benjy Mason and his team as well as the Blaffer Art Museum team.
Amidst an elegant setting designed to heighten the potency of such foods and their effects on the participants’ bodies, The Mangrove Banquet is an experience designed to elicit the triumph of nature, imagination and the feminine over political despair. The elegance of the event is counterpointed by a performance consisting of “ghostly” farming women, dressed in Niger Delta masks and white clay on their bodies, who sweep the floor and drag large pestle’s and mortars and pound kola nut and African cloves in the background. Thus perfuming but also unsettling the proceedings somewhat with the reminder of the labours on which the world’s feasting is made possible in the global economy: the backs and hearts of third world women. A magical, animistic and elemental event, the banquet returns agency and seductive storytelling power to a region historically fraught with the politics of energy, labour and land. The banquet exalts the undervalued labour of women that work the land as farmers in the Niger Delta.
“This is my response to the narratives of death that surround the Niger Delta,” Saro-Wiwa says. “This work, this banquet is an assertion of life. The life that is everywhere, that is neglected. I want to celebrate what the ground in the Niger Delta has to offer the region and the entire world.”