By John Owoo
(At large in Kumasi)
A recent work by the Ghanaian performance artist Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi (crazinisT artisT) that made the familiar intensely political and the peculiar eccentric ended recently in the Ashanti regional capital Kumasi.
Tapping deep into potentially traumatic subjects, Fiatsi exploits the “aesthetics” of human rights violations, sexism, gender violence, political injustice, xenophobia and religious extremism as a social process within the global community and powerfully comments on them.
Using his naked body alongside braided hair and painted nails, the artist lays motionless on a mounted table covered in red and white sheets splashed with his own blood. In the midst of an eerie silence, he engages the audience with conflicting emotions of desire and revulsion, fear and fascination as well as provocation and irritation.
Merging iconographic imageries of funerary rituals with an appropriation of the last supper from the Bible, the performance made bold comments on “pleasuring and commodification” of marginalised citizens while showing then off as victims of “freak shows”.
Fiatsi sought to re-examine the paradoxical relationship between human rights and international political structures that claim to protect marginalised individuals and groups – and he largely succeeds as he challenges the vision of the world while exposing its contradictions and complexities.
Through a multi layered performance that lasted five hours, Fiatsi managed to reduce the human body to an exotic product as though to be bargained, purchased and consumed. Indeed, he stimulates an open-ended dialogue on degradations of voiceless citizens and violations of human rights by presenting his naked body as a provocative tool.
In a near cryptic performance, Fiasti calls on his audience (who graciously take part) and indeed the world at large, to re-examine the issue of humanity while coolly urging them to see beyond his nakedness and begin a soul-searching exercise.
Currently an MFA student at the College of Art & Design, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Kumasi), Fiatsi is a multimedia performance artist. His works investigate the socio-cultural supremacy of dominant groups by questioning the relationship between “right wing” groups and marginalised citizens within “civilised” societies.
He explores the hybridity of forms, spaces and structures as “inherent” components of performance art and therefore decontextualizing the relationship of the human body to society and its normative cultures. Indeed, he perceives the human body as a colony of societal norms, codes, taboos and doctrines striving against oppressive prejudices.
Pictures by Anwar Sadat Mohammed & Justice Amoh