remember saro-wiwa is a ground-breaking visual arts project, that combines the power of art and activism. The vehicle of the project is a Living Memorial to the Nigerian artist and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, created by British artist Sokari Douglas-Camp CBE.
The Living Memorial is a life-size steel Bus, featuring the names of the Ogoni 9 who were executed by the Nigerian military government.
Carved into the Bus is a quotation from Ken Saro-Wiwa:
“I ACCUSE THE OIL COMPANIES OF PRACTISING GENOCIDE AGAINST THE OGONI”
“Artists should be at the centre of society keeping alive a utopian vision, because society will not improve if the people envisioning a better society are politicians.”
The role of the artist in society is critical to communicate the injustices experienced daily by people. Art can provide political expression beyond rhetoric, propaganda, and action, inspiring those formerly untouched by an issue to become engaged.
Many in Britain are unaware of how the oil and gas we consume daily contributes to the suffering of communities and the repression of activists campaigning for justice. In 2004, PLATFORM gathered a diverse coalition of organisations and individuals to ensure that their courageous struggle of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people will be remembered through a ground breaking public art project, supported by the Arts Council England and the Roddick Foundation.
This gathering launched remember saro-wiwa, a project to create a Living Memorial to Ken Saro-Wiwa, a unique piece of public art to keep alive the issues that Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni fought and died for. The Living Memorial is Britain’s first ever mobile memorial, and has toured 9 sites over two years. The project is currently making plans to establish a permanent site for the memorial in central London.
The Living Memorial is not be a monument to a finished episode. It is an initiative that highlights to London – a major oil city – the living struggle for resources, and the global struggle for social and environmental justice today.
An open commission:
An international process of open submissions invited inspiring ideas for the project, launched at City Hall in 2004. A shortlist of five proposals, selected by a panel, was exhibited at City Hall in the run-up to 10th November 2005, the tenth anniversary of the execution of Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues. The Judging Panel included Ken Wiwa jr, artists Yinka Shonibare, Alfredo Jaar, activist Anita Roddick, curator Augustus Casely-Hayford. The winners were announced in the 10th anniversary commemorative event featuring speakers from the RSW coalition, writer Wole Soyinka, and Maria Saro-Wiwa, Ken’s widow.
Alongside the Living Memorial was a two-year interactive programme 2006-8, which animated the whole process through talks, workshops, publications, and the website. The Bus travelled to Liverpool’s Merseyside Maritime Museums, Arnolfini Gallery Bristol, New Art Exchange Nottingham, SOAS University of London, Goldsmiths College, Southbank Centre London, and the Glastonbury Festival among other partner venues
In 2009, the Bus was resident at Stephen Lawrence Centre, London, for 14 months, accompanying our youth programme ’Shake! Young Voices in Arts, Media Race and Power’. In 2011, the Bus moved to take up residence at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Tottenham, London, where it was launched by Ken’s widow, Maria Saro-Wiwa and poet Zena Edwards.