29 November 2012

Eaten By The Heart | The Progress Of Love

The Progress Of Love is a three-part transatlantic exhibition which explores how today's African artists reflect on universal emotions in a changing global society. The exhibition is hosted by The Menil Collection (in Houston, USA), The Pullitzer Foundation for the Arts (in St. Louis, USA), and the Centre for Contemporary Art (in Lagos, Nigeria). As part of the series at The Menil Collection, Eaten By The Heart is a video installation by Zina Saro-Wiwa which explores the views of Africans on kissing.

Differences in Practice of Kissing
There is a notable difference between generations, in terms of the views towards kissing as an expression of affection. In Part 1 of Eaten By The Heart (shown below), the participants describe the familiarity they have with the practice. The general awkwardness surrounding the idea would seem a little strange to those living in areas where kissing is equated with an expression of love. Anthropologists believe that kissing began in India and they reference Amazonian tribes who are still not accustomed to the practice. Perhaps our exposure to kissing in Western societies has conditioned us to expect and enjoy it as a form of love. The implications of this are quite fascinating.

Watch Part 1 of Eaten By The Heart:

Heartbreak & Expressions of Love
The video installation progresses to address topics of heartbreak. I found the responses very poetic and a beautiful communication of various appreciations of love beyond the customary kiss. The tender, vulnerable facial expressions provided visible hints of profound experiences of love and hurt. 

Adopting the practice of kissing
One participant suggested the idea that Africans “borrowed” kissing from the Europeans to “complete our love”. However the increased acceptance and use of kissing is more likely to have been the result of globalization and the decreasingly conservative disposition of younger generations.

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