Scenes from “The Mangrove Banquet” by Zina Saro-Wiwa
On Nov. 19, in conjunction with Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance?, her first solo museum exhibition, British-Nigerian artist Zina Saro-Wiwa staged a feast performance that no one who attended will soon forget. The Mangrove Banquet was conceived as a love letter to the artist’s native Niger Delta region of southeastern Nigeria, offering her guests an opportunity to ingest the region’s agricultural bounty.
Chef Benjy Mason prepared a five-course feast designed by Saro-Wiwa that transformed ingredients from the Niger Delta — including roasted fish, hibiscus, and medicinal tree bark — into new entities. Even the cocktail menu, with such concoctions as “Kuru’s Cure All” (banana infused rhum, scent leaf syrup, alligator pepper, velvet falernum infused with Invisible Man tree bark and a splash of Guiness) reflected Saro-Wiwa’s homage to the region’s too-often uncelebrated verdancy and fertility — and to the women who work the land, symbolized by a Tyres Donnett’s masked performance with a mortar and pestle from Nigeria.