African Art of Kissing [VIDEO]

How do Africans kiss? A reasonable question, since we don’t much go in for public displays of affection.

Still from Eaten by the Heart (Interview excerpts) by Zina Zaro-Wiwa

Still from Eaten by the Heart (interview excerpts) by Zina Saro-Wiwa

Google “origin of kissing” or the words “kissing” and “culture” and you learn that while the experts are not entirely sure whether kissing is an instinctive or learned behaviour, the weight of evidence points towards the latter. if that is the case – and it probably is, as there are apparently many Amazonian tribes that do not kiss at all – then it stands to reason that people are more likely to be at ease with kissing (in public and private) if they grow up in a culture in which kissing is not only accepted as a regular part of life but witnessed as such, and often.

This might explain the stiffness, awkwardness and timidity mentioned by some of the respondents in British-Nigerian film-maker and video artist Zina Saro-Wiwa’s video installation Eaten By The Heart, which she conceived, produced and directed for the Menil Collection’s The Progress of Love exhibition. It’s a three-venue exhibition, so it’s also on at the Pulitzer Foundation, St. Louis, and the Centre For Contemporary Art in Lagos.

Saro-Wiwa, daughter of the executed Nigerian author and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, believes that the way we express love is organised culturally. “So many of us cite with confidence that love is universal. But the performance of love is, it seems, cultural,” she says. “I wonder how the impact of how we choreograph and culturally organise the performance of love impacts what we feel inside and who we become.”

Eaten By The Heart forms part of her video performance practice which currently focuses on the mapping of emotional landscapes, its resulting performative behaviours and cross-cultural implications.

In my experience, we become more comfortable with the practice with each generation. Children of the 70s, 80s and 90s are definitely more comfortable with kissing in public than their parents’ generation. I have friends who never ever saw their parents kiss. Hug, maybe, but not kiss. Whereas I’ve seen these same friends exchanging deep kisses with girlfriends/boyfriends, and they didn’t seem particularly self-conscious about it. I have to say, though, this was mostly among friends in Europe. I’ve seen friends in Nigeria kiss, too, but not often.

– The Guardian