Back to earth

In the entrance of the Yaba Art College in Lagos/Nigeria I am sitting on a tree stump. In front of me are a clod of clay (about 15 kg) and two bowls of water. After daubing my hands, my feet and my neck with clay I start applying the clay on my head. After a while two ceramic students join me. When my head is fully covered I stop interfering with the designing of the “artificial” head. The students form a huge African shaped head with the face being a mask. When they finish I stand up. Soon the material falls apart and I try to save it. Finally, I can hold the whole amount of clay in front of my abdomen. Embracing the clod I walk to a spot of bare earth. The audience follows me. Here I bury the chunk of clay.

Covering my white skin in Africa can have several meanings. First of all I try to diminish the difference between the appearance of human beings with different skin colours. Secondly, I want to cover all my skin in this performance because it is tradition in African masquerades. Thirdly, I want to become the same material our bodies will become after death: Earth.

In the procedure of covering my head with clay I have to give up control and hand it over to the art students. They become the creators. The design of my appearance is due to their will and their knowledge. The moment I leave the space of their responsibility my new look falls apart. I just can only save the material but not the structure. In a loving and caring way I carry the clay like an unborn baby to his grave and embed it in the earth. In this performance I call into question all the judgments we have regarding human apprearances. The inside always comes to light and the body and its appearance depend on how and where it was launched. Finally we all, at least our bodies, become earth again.