THEO ESHETU| The Festival of Sacrifice


This work is one of six video installations that began with Theo Eshetu’s visit to the Islamic island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya in 2011. Eshetu explains that the six works explore vision in a broad sense. They begin with the visible physical world yet gesture toward metaphysical, visionary realms.

The point of departure in Festival of Sacrifice is the sacrifice of a goat, filmed during the ceremony of Eid Al Adha (The Festival of Sacrifice), which marks the end of Ramadan. The sacrifice is mirrored vertically and horizontally until it practically loses its identity as a ritual event to become a constantly mutating, amorphous symmetrical image: a kaleidoscopic vision.

While “sacrifice” can mean renunciation and deprivation, here the sacrifice serves as an act of goodness and generosity, since the meat is distributed among the poor. The death of the animal helps sustain the human community. The formal structure of the work, using reversal and inversion, mirrors such duality and evokes its metaphysical importance. Eshetu also cites formal artistic inspirations for the multiplication onto six-screens: Francis Bacon, Rorschach’s inkblot tests, and the kaleidoscopic designs of Islamic art.

Eshetu views his works as new forms that forge a new “transnational” art by blending culturally diverse sources and opening up a series of new meanings and interpretations between cultures.