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The Nightingale

Grace Ndiritu

The Nightingale

The Nightingale is a powerful video concerned with projected identity and miscommunication.

Originally based on a story of unrequited love - the title making reference to the bird famous for its beautiful, sad song - it has become more fixated on the disconnection between the East and West, global separation and cultural stereotyping.

Poetically, this is conveyed by a sentence superimposed on the opening sequence: "He stood East of my childhood and West of my future". The beginning of The Nightingale is peaceful and serene, showing Ndiritu slowly moving a cloth that covers her head and shoulders, to reveal her face, with eyes closed. The quiet African music suddenly changes as the artist becomes animated, with eyes wide open, focused on the viewer. She twists, wraps and folds the fabric in a sequence of simple movements to transform her appearance. Each action reveals another identity, the fabric being exploited for its versatility, playing the role of blindfold, hajib, headscarf, burka, veil, bandanna, purdah, gag and turban. Its reference to an assortment of cultures is both joyful and unsettling, developing with the rhythm of the music, pausing into moments of playful seduction and sculptural beauty. The final sequence of the video consists simply of birds in flight, literally above human politics, suggesting freedom from cultural compartmentalisation.

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