Venue, Timing and Cost
Combining anthropology and contemporary art this show captures the complex emotional stories behind a modern urban masquerade called Agaba, one of the enduring masquerades of the oil-producing Niger Delta region of Nigeria, where 65 years of gasflaring has contributed to low life expectancy. Finding tenderness and everyday tragedy in the personal and the political, this is told through the songs, the carving and performance, and captured in Zina Saro-Wiwa’s installation Bad Boys & Broken Hearts.
Masquerade is a public spectacle based on disguise. In the ethnographic museum masks are presented as if they reveal the mysteries of a culture and its cosmology. African masks are often presented as static symbols of the identity and material culture of rural communities from a bygone era. Port Harcourt-born British-Nigerian artist Zina Saro-Wiwa and Oxford anthropologist David Pratten collaborate to tell a very different story. Unmasked takes us through the glass vitrine to expose the beating heart of the humanity that created the mask.