Eaten By The Heart: The Installation (2012)


The video performance aspect of the Eaten By The Heart series is represented by a 62-minute film featuring 12 different African and diasporic couples kissing for between 4 and 7 minutes each. Each couple is super-imposed onto a block colour and each kissing performance features its own individual soundscape.

Half the couples are, in fact, strangers. Kissing is a form of intimacy that is common in the West and among Europeans but poses problems to many other cultures including African ones. The piece offers a meditation on a love performance that is not seen as traditionally black or African and is rarely performed in public by black peoples. The performance inserts this gesture into a landscape that doubts black peoples’ love performances and capacity to love themselves and each other, whist simultaneously questioning kissing’s primacy as a love performance. The video performance is showing at the Menil Collection between December 2012 and March 2013. It has also been shown at Moderna Museet, Stockholm in 2014, is currently on show at Goodman Gallery, Cape Town till 25th October 2014 and will be shown in Rio de Janeiro in November 2014.

Eaten By The Heart is a video installation and documentary project conceived, produced and directed by Zina Saro-Wiwa. Commissioned by The Menil Collection, Houston and supported by the Houston Museum of African American Culture for the Menil’s exhibition The Progress of Love (, the piece explores intimacy, heartbreak and love performances among Africans and Diasporans. Eaten By The Heart forms part of Zina’s video performance and installation practice which focuses on the mapping of emotional landscapes, its resulting performative behaviors and cross-cultural implications. Zina states:

So many of us cite with confidence that Love Is Universal. But the performance of love is, it seems, cultural. I wonder how the way we choreograph and culturally organize the performance of love impacts what we feel inside and who we become.”