Makoko Sawmill, 20 min, 2015
Curious blue sticks probe Makoko Sawmill. Whole trees from all over Nigeria, float on the Lagos State Lagoon, converging at this humble mill. Domestic traces—an air of languor mingles with the trade. Area boys watch and wait. Halted machines similarly await revival. Nigeria Power Holding Company has ceased the electric.
An order emerges. Groups of men aka “Pullers,” “Rollers,” “Carriers,” work together to process wood, women and children resourcefully recycle sawdust. All the while observed by idiosyncratic blue sticks doing nothing and everything at once. Framing, measuring, chasing. Watching and waiting.
King of Boys (Abattoir of Makoko), 5 min, 2015
King of Boys is a window into the abattoir of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria. The men butcher heads of bulls and rams. Decapitated heads with raging horns once brutal, docilely await the butcher’s block. Nothing is wasted: horns, offal, bone, skin, all destined for distinct uses. Deftly wielding heavy axes and large sharp knives, precision is key; A rhythm arises. Spatially, almost mirroring the set-up of theatre in the round, butchers are grouped per task, with each group and its specificity of craft unfolding like scenes of a play. Animal skins boil in steaming vats of water over open fire, knives sharpen, noisily scraping the hairs off. Bones are hacked and horns attacked, decorating the ground like battlefield carnage. The atmosphere is visually layered and aurally complex. A collage of gestures, a cacophony of noises: muffled conversation, footsteps of passers by, generators powering up, crackling fires boiling skins, relentless axes slamming into dense bone, the soundtrack from a nearby television set loudly playing a Nollywood movie...
King of Boys explores the ways in which colour manipulates filmic language. The device becomes such an instigator of narrative and atmospheric resonance that in this almost violent world with macabre undertones and hyper repulsive conditions, the viewer is strangely seduced by the device’s red filter and compelled to watch.
Springing from her personal life experiences as a young artist, Karimah Ashadu’s works bridge with the far-reaching legacies of experimental film and video-making by black women from the 1970s to the 1990s. Now in preparation of her first feature film, Salt Mine, her near 20 short-length videos, made since 2011, have developed the idiosyncratic dualities of her British-Nigerian identity. Self-determined, purposeful, and free despite small budgets, her videos and installations derive from a training in painting, art history, architecture, and spatial design. In her work, Ashadu steps into the everyday and the ordinary while fighting against expectations of trauma, endurance, and spectacle associated to race and gender. In this, her videos speak to the early creations of African-American artists including Ayoka Chenzira and Cheryl Dunye, and American Yvonne Welbon, Cauleen Smith, and the Video Drawings by Howardena Pindell. – Mónica Savirón
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