Mourning Class: Nollywood (2010)

Mourning Class

Multi-channel video installation, 20mins 32secs.

The Mourning Class series is a set of video performances that explore mourning rituals and address the role of performance in grieving. The first in the series is Mourning Class: Nollywood. This piece arose from Zina Saro-Wiwa’s interest in Nollywood and the African emotional landscape. The close-up of crying face is a classic nollywood trope. A trademark of the genre. The sobbing female figure, a grieving widow, a repentant woman of the night, the dutiful, but put-upon, wife, the performance of pain – close up – forms the emotional backbone of Nollywood film.

For this installation, each actress was asked to sit in front of the camera –  bearing their shoulders and covering their heads – and cry when prompted by Zina. They needed to produce real tears and engage with the camera as much as possible during the process, turning their emotions into a true performance as well as a test of endurance. The work explores the role of performance in expressing grief, drawing the viewer into the territory between the emotive and the emotional. The minimal, ghostly sound leaving room for the viewer to engage with the physical performance of grief. The lack of narrative and context but direct engagement of the subject also draws out the viewer’s own personal narratives engineering a form of catharsis.

Mourning Class: Nollywood has been shown at Location One Gallery, The Pulitzer Foundation, The New Museum for Transition 50 and was chosen for the back cover of The Progress of Love catalogue.