Dancing in a sea of fire (single channel, 10 min, loop)
For the exhibition, Delta Remix (curated by Zen Marie. Wits School of Arts, Goethe Institute, Johannesburg, 2012)
According to a legend in the Niger Delta, if water spirits are not honoured with dance, there will be implications for the future. This underlying legend sets the stage to revisit water and fire as images that speak to the failure of the present. I therefore juxtapose quasi-apocalyptic scenes of photojournalism in the Delta, with moments of encounter, discovery and change as sources of alternative presents and imagined futures. For this I rely on the anticolonial narrative of Jean Rouch’s 1967 film Jaguar and an appeal to the contemporary African urban scene by way of a track from the Johannesburg band the BLK JKS.
The project: In 2012, the Munich State Museum of Ethnology presented an exhibition showcasing the work of over 20 renown photojournalists on the effects that years of oil extraction has had for communities along the Niger Delta in Nigeria. In dialogue with this, a project was set forth by the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism and the Goethe Institute, where artists, filmmakers and photographers were called to produce pieces that responded to the images of the exhibiton by relying directly on them. The idea was to use video as a mode of intervention that would engage with the existence of the images as moving but more importantly to start to explore and critique the contentious nature of representations of Africa that focus on “crisis”.
Written: and conceived by Juan Orrantia.
Edited: with Zen Marie.
Stills: Various authors, from the Exhibition, Last Rites, Niger Delta.
Footage: “Jaguar” (1967) Jean Rouch
Music: “Bogobe”, BLK JKS, from the album Zol! (reproduced with author’s permission)
Texts: “The Divine Qualities of the Sawfish”, by Stefan Eisenhofer (Last Rites, Catalogue) and Extracts from: Interview with Sarah Nuttall, Superberg, 8081