By John Owoo
(At large in James Town – Accra)
Ghanaian performance artist Va Bene Elikem Fiatsi and his German counterpart John Herman recently stunned patrons at the just ended Chale Wote Street Art Festival with a durational performance and living installation that explored human vulnerability, death and the will to survive.
Set in the now closed James Fort Prison, which ironically is a former colonial legacy, the two nude artists immersed themselves in mud and water that have been mixed in a huge wooden structure with animal bones scattered in strategic parts.
With their nude bodies entirely covered in mud, they crawl on their knees, hands and stomachs in well calculated movements as they search for everything and nothing while attempting to re-examine the human sense of incompleteness or otherwise.
Surrealistic scenarios emerge as they grab the bones in a vain search for some kind of metaphysical clarity while seeking for factors, circumstances and social constructs that solidify our identity as human beings.
They equally examine society, tribes, family, relatives, customs and traditions, political economy, political powers, gender roles, cultural and social beliefs, religions and climatic conditions as they freeze in various postures and maneuvers.
After two hours of non-stop performance in the prison grounds, the pair spotting bruises from falling, crawling and walking in mud and stones struggle onto the street amidst cheers and surprise from festival revelers as they paraded the streets hosting the festival.
The performance is equally an investigative commentary into how water, a veritable common denominator of our shared existence binds social ecology together in ways that nurture peaceful co-existence as well as deadly wars and conflicts that has characterized the world in contemporary times.
Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2017 attracted over 30 thousand local and international visitors including nine artists from various African countries, who were invited under the Moving Africa Project of the Goethe-Institut.