Table Manners (2014-2016)
“Table Manners” (2014-2016) is a video series that sees individuals giving an eating performance for Zina’s camera. The viewer is encouraged to enter, sit down and enjoy the meal with the eaters. All the eaters in the series use their hands to eat. At the end of the films the place of the filming is stated. This documentation simply serves to highlight that “an important ritual has taken place”.
Saro-Wiwa states: “A powerful exchange takes place when one not only eats a meal but watches a meal being consumed. One is filled up with an energy I cannot explain.” This energy may be a satisfying one or it may be a discomfiting one. Perhaps a bit a both. But there is a defiance in the way the eaters stare back, shifting the exchange from a voyeuristic one to something quite different. The viewer is also observed and asked to observe themselves.
Although Table Manners’ provocative title speaks to colonially-instigated questions surrounding the manner in which Africans traditionally eat, the piece is, for Saro-Wiwa, really about place and power. The act of eating and consuming the food drawn from the land re-inscribes and re-insinuates the eater back into the landscape in a physical and metaphysical way. The action speaks of agency, power, sexuality, ownership, stewardship. The performance is sublimated ritual and resistance. An act of insistence which takes on a particular resonance when considering the fractured relationship with the land that has been imposed on Niger Delta peoples over the last 100 years.
The work has been shown at Blaffer Art Museum, Houston; Tate Britain, London; The Walther Collection, NYC and Germany; Krannert Museum, Illinois.