Video

Zina Saro-Wiwa's 'Eaten By the Heart'

Zina Saro-Wiwa's new video installation "Eaten By the Heart" explores how love and intimacy are not universal, but can in fact be culturally informed.


Produced by Zina Saro-Wiwa, Eaten By the Heart is a compelling video installation and documentary project which explores the cultural specificity of the performance of love. The first sequence, "Eaten By the Heart I" is perhaps the most popular and poses the question "How do Africans kiss?" While the first sequence follows standard documentary format, the second and third installments favour a more evocative tone through experimental integration of these personal expressions of intimacy and heartbreak. As Saro-Wiwa 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 impact of how we choreograph and culturally organize the performance of love impacts what we feel inside and who we become.”

In Part III, through a "breathing orchestra" Saro-Wiwa collates the voices and faces of different bodies throughout the African diaspora while they share their personal experiences of love, intimacy, and family. Phrases such as "I am not alone, but I am lonely" and "When I think of black love, I don't think of butterflies in an open field" blend with the sounds of breathing bodies and individual histories of how love has come to mean through culturally-specific ways of knowing and feeling. It does no justice to the installation to explain or catalog the different components with words, so take a look at the visually astounding "Eaten By the Heart Part III: Breathing Orchestra" below. Trust, it will be five minutes well spent. Also check parts I and II here.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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