09 November 2006
Ken Saro Wiwa – a living monument
From today’s Guardian
Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian novelist, journalist and activits who spearheaded a massive campaign against oil corporations and the Nigerian government, accusing both of waging an ecological war against the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta. In 1994, Saro-Wiwa was arrested and accused of incitement to murder. Eighteen months later, following a show trial condemned by human rights organisations, he and eight other leaders of the Movement For the Survival of the Ogoni People were executed by hanging, an act that propelled the story on to the front pages of newspapers worldwide.
Last year, to mark the 10th anniversary of Saro-Wiwa's execution, Platform, together with Amnesty International, the Arts Council and Greenpeace, launched a competition, asking artists to come up with proposals for a Saro-Wiwa memorial. The winner was Nigerian-born sculptor Sokari Douglas Camp, whose "mobile memorial" takes the form of a giant bus, made out of steel and loaded with oil barrels. From tomorrow, it will be parked outside the Guardian's offices in London, before embarking on a UK tour
The idea of a travelling memorial was conceived as an antidote to the notion of fixed, figurative monuments. The memorial is also large enough to serve as a miniature venue for film screenings and exhibitions. For Camp, the image of a rickety vehicle has many resonances - as a pollutant, a carrier of supplies and information, and as a metaphor for Saro-Wiwa's activism."I think transport is an important feature in environmental debate," she says. "The poorer world is always trying to catch up with the west in transporting goods. I wanted a spectacle of some kind, one of those vehicles, stacked precariously with all the goods they can carry. It will be fantastic to see it in a London street."
Camp has strong personal memories of Saro-Wiwa's campaign against the oil companies and its tragic conclusion. "We watched it all fall apart on TV with the rest of the world," she says. "I want people to know just how bad things are in the Delta, and if this structure can educate people that western society uses some areas of the world as dustbins, I think it will help".
The memorial will be unveiled tomorrow and will stay until November 24. The Guardian's Newsroom is also hosting a film and discussion programme to mark the unveiling.
The uneling is part of a day of activities to commemorate Saro Wiwa. I cannot attend the others but I hope to be at the unveiling. If so I will post Photographs
ken SaroWiwa memorial