Artsy: The Brooklyn Museum’s African Mask Show Is a Complex, Powerful Exploration of Identity

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“British-Nigerian-American artist Zina Saro-Wiwa presents a moving, personal video, titled The Invisible Man: The Weight of Absence (2015). A portrait of loss, it stems from her own experience of losing important men in her life, including her father, an activist murdered for his work by the Nigerian government. It is centered on herself and her fellow Ogoni women, who are filmed slowly, gracefully performing the exhaustive weight of such absences with expressive faces, gestures, and bodies. Its centerpiece is a powerful, Janus-faced mask, whose two sides represent the pain and the anger that these losses provoke.

Ushering both this mask and this video into being was Saro-Wiwa’s formation of an all-women masquerade group, representing a radical break with the traditions of this male-dominated cultural form. In so doing, she connects with her Ogoni culture while pushing its masquerade practices into new territory…

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